Agriculture Labor Issues

The Situation

The U.S. pork industry is suffering from a serious labor shortage that undermines its commitment to the highest standards of animal care. Current visa programs widely used by pork producers are not effectively addressing the issue. Without visa reform to support a viable workforce for U.S. agriculture, animal welfare is jeopardized and production costs will increase, leading to higher food prices for consumers. In some cases, a shortage of labor could lead to farms and packing plants shutting down, causing serious financial harm to those operations and their communities. According to a study from Iowa State University researchers, the U.S. pork industry faces a constrained rural labor supply due to an aging native-born workforce and falling birth rates, making access to foreign-born workers a critical matter for the prosperity of rural America. Reform is needed to ensure that one of the most competitive U.S. agriculture sectors can continue to provide safe and affordable pork to consumers worldwide.

NPPC's Position

NPPC supports visa system reform, including the Newhouse-Cuellar Amendment to the fiscal 2019 Homeland Security Appropriations Act, which would allow agricultural employers to utilize the H-2A visa program for year-round labor as opposed to strictly seasonal labor. The amendment would be beneficial in establishing a legal and productive workforce while not unduly burdening employers. NPPC also supports the “AG and Legal Workforce Act” (H.R. 6417), which would create an H-2C visa allowing non-seasonal agriculture works to remain in the United States for up to three years.

Fast Facts

Current visa programs include:

  • H-2A program Grants foreign nationals entry to the United States for temporary or seasonal agricultural work
  • H-1B program Allows U.S. employers to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations, including as veterinarians or farm managers, for a six-year period
  • TN program Provides expedited authorization for workers from the United States, Canada and Mexico
    • Created through the North American Free Trade Agreement
    • Employed in specialty jobs, such as breeding managers
    • Unlike the H-1B program, it allows workers to apply for permanent residence and may be renewed indefinitely

Additional Resources

Visa Reform: Labor Shortage in the U.S. Pork Industry