Federal farm worker laws need flexibility
Local farmers and agriculture organizations have long complained about the lack of flexibility in rules regarding foreign farm workers, but with little success.
Now Yuma's Rep. Russ Jones is trying to use the influence of the Arizona Legislature to bring about one of the needed changes.
Jones is pushing a legislative “memorial” (HCM 2003) that urges the Obama administration to change the housing requirement for foreign workers who come to the United States under the H-2A agriculture program.
The program allows farmers to temporarily hire foreign farm workers to fill their labor needs. Qualified workers can be part of the program for a long as three years. Locally, many come from Mexico but they are eligible to work throughout the nation and come from many nations, including South Africa.
The problem with the federal labor program is that it offers a “one size fits all” approach. While workers in many parts of the nation may need housing, that isn't necessarily the case locally. Yuma area farm workers from nearby Mexico often prefer to go home each night rather than be housed on this side of the border, but H-2A requires housing be provided here nevertheless.
Not all areas using foreign farm labor are the same - there needs to be flexibility.
In fact, more flexibility for foreign farm workers on the border is needed in other areas too. For example, a system is needed so workers can quickly move back and forth across the border with Mexico so farm workers don't have to wait in long lines to cross to get to work and go home.
The Legislature can only ask that the federal laws on foreign farm workers be changed. It will be up to the Obama administration and the U.S. Labor Department to listen and do something.