The Farm Workforce Modernization Act is in the hands of the Senate. Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (GFVGA), is hopeful changes will be made to several provisions in the bill that would impact Georgia producers; specifically the one regarding Certified Ag Workers.
“One of the things that is concerning is how the Certified Ag Workers (portion) will be handled. In that bill, anyone that has worked on a farm…I think it’s anyone that has worked on farm the last two or three years, can apply to be a certified ag worker. They become a legal worker, not a citizen, but they become a legal worker. They have to work in agriculture 100 days out of the year for five years. Then they can apply for citizenship,” Hall said.
“The concern that we’ve got is once they become a legal worker, they can go to a farm and displace H-2A workers that have been here and are on contract. For a grower, up to 50% of the contract, they have to hire a legal worker if they come and apply at the farm and are qualified to do the work.
“You could have a farmer that has 100 H-2A workers, and five certified Ag workers come to their farm and apply to do the work. He would have to send five H-2A workers home and have these non-H-2A workers hired.”
“You’ve got workers that may or may not be qualified to do the work displacing H-2A workers that may have been three or four or five years, and they’re very skilled workers for what work they’re supposed to be doing.”
Potential Problem for Georgia Producers
Certified Agriculture Workers would only be required to work 100 days every year to maintain a visa. Since Georgia vegetable and specialty crops are produced year-round, these new guidelines could potentially leave employers without workers for the remainder of the year.
The Farm Workforce Modernization Act passed the House by a vote of 247-174.