November 07, 2023
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins and Angus King have joined together on a bipartisan letter seeking expanded comment periods for temporary access visa programs used by Maine’s farmers and ranchers. In letters to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, the Senators request a 60-day public comment extension for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed rulemaking, “Modernizing H-2 Program Requirements, Oversight, and Worker Protections, 88 FR 65040,” and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) proposed rulemaking, “Improving Protections for Workers in Temporary Agricultural Employment in the United States, 88 FR 63750.”
The Senators’ requests were prompted by farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural stakeholders in their states who are only now finishing harvest season and are increasingly concerned that DHS and DOL will finalize the rules before they can fully assess and comment on the new federal mandates on agricultural employers. They also noted that four other regulatory actions of interest to these stakeholders have comment periods ending during the comment period of the DOL and DHS proposed regulations.
“The United States takes pride in producing the world’s safest, most abundant, and most affordable food supply. Our nation’s ability to do so is entirely contingent on the strength of our agricultural workforce. The H-2A program provides a critical labor pool without which many producers in our states would struggle or be entirely unable to operate,” the Senators wrote.
“Any proposed regulatory changes to the H-2A program have potential ramifications for the entire American agricultural supply chain and food security. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that our constituents be provided adequate time to thoroughly analyze this proposed rule and its effects on their operations. Moreover, this comment period is occurring while many producers in our states will be occupied with fall harvest and unable to dedicate time to developing meaningful comments,” the lawmakers wrote.
In addition to Senators Collins and King, the letters were signed by U.S. Senators Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), John Thune (R-S.D.), Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), James Risch (R-Idaho), John Boozman (R-Ark.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), John Kennedy (R-La.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Roger Marshall, M.D. (R-Kan.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Katie Britt (R-Ala.), and Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.).