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                                  STATEMENT OF DEWEY HUKILL

                                       FOR TEXAS FARM BUREAU

    TO THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON IMMIGRATION AND CLAIMS

                                     HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE

                                         REGARDING H.R. 4548

  LEGISLATION TO REFORM THE H-2A FARM WORKER VISA PROGRAM

                                                         June 15, 2000

 Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, my name is Dewey Hukill. My farming operation is located in Lamb County Texas near Olton where I raise 700

acres of bulbs (Iris, Canna, Day Lily and Tube Roses) and 600 acres of cotton. I chair the Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) Nursery and Greenhouse Advisory

Committee, am a member of the TFB Farm Labor Advisory Committee and serve on the American Farm Bureau Federation's Nursery and Greenhouse Advisory

Committee. On behalf of Texas Farm Bureau, I appreciate the opportunity to offer our views on proposals to improve and expand the H-2a temporary farm worker

visa program. Farmers often find themselves dependent upon the labor of people outside their immediate families in order to plant, cultivate, and harvest their crops.

Approximately 1.6 million people are hired to perform work on farms every year. These workers perform a vital function in assisting farmers to operate their farm

businesses.

 

Mr. Chairman, with your permission I would like to submit for the record a copy of the statement prepared by the American Farm Bureau Federation as well as a

letter from Bruce Fraiser, another member of the Texas Farm Bureau Labor Advisory Committee.

 

I am here today to speak in support of H.R. 4548, legislation that would reform the H-2a Farm Worker Visa Program. In fact, I am serving as back-up to another

member of the TFB Farm Labor Advisory Committee who was not able to testify because of his problem in finding sufficient labor to harvest his melon crop. Many

Texas growers are beginning to find that labor availability related problems are taking more of their management time. This is happening in a state that, at one time

boasted, a bountiful farm and ranch labor work force. Today, we are beginning to experience the diminishing supply of farm labor that other states have been

experiencing for several years. It is appropriate that Congress is addressing the H-2a temporary farm worker visa program.

 

Our support of H.R. 4548 is predicated on the fact that it begins a reform of the guest worker program that is needed to maintain a viable agricultural economy and

the highest standards of productivity. The following points are reasons why we feel this legislation should be passed.

 

The three-year pilot program creates a new category (H-2c) of foreign agricultural workers that will not interfere with or cause confusion with the current H-2a

program. The new category offers the opportunity to "ground truth" the program prior to full implementation.

 

One of the problems with the H-2a program is matching employer's labor needs to worker availability. This legislation would provide for the development of a

registry with information from employers and workers that would streamline the process for farmers finding workers and workers finding employment.

 

The current formula that determines the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) would be replaced with the prevailing wage standard used in all other employment

based immigration programs. The AEWR is particularly problematic in that it causes unnecessary inflation of wages simply to insure an adequate labor supply. We

are not aware of any states in which the prevailing wage standard is below the statutory minimum wage.

 

The current program requires farmers to provide housing for employees under the H-2a program. H.R. 4548 gives the employer the option of either providing

housing or a housing allowance. This is important to the program in that farmers who could use the current program are disqualified because of the lack of housing.

 

The proposal has a mechanism that encourages workers to leave the United States after the approved period of admission under the H-2c visa expires. We believe

this will help reduce competition for permanent jobs sought by domestic workers.

 

Finally, the proposed legislation enhances those protections for foreign and domestic workers in the current program and the users would pay the cost of the

program.

 

Thank you for allowing me to present this testimony today. I will answer any questions you might have.

 


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