New rules introduced for temporary foreign farm workers

The new rules, which are a reversal of a Bush-era rule, are being jeered by the agriculture industry and cheered by the labor-rights advocates.

Announcing these new rules, Hilda Solis, US Labor Secretary said these rules will ensure fair wages for immigrant workers and extend labor protections including job safety for domestic as well as immigrant farm workers in the US.

So, from now on, it will become mandatory for US farmers to provide documented proof of the job searches carried by them for hiring 
domestic US workers before seeking any H-2A visas for employing a foreign worker. Hence, they will be required to make registrations at national electronic job registry to hire domestic US workers for farm jobs.

Various groups representing US farm growers are criticizing the rules which, they feel, will complicate their search for farm workers.

The rules will come into effect from March 15, 2010 onwards.

The US Labor Department has issued guidelines for minimum hourly wages for farm workers since the average hourly wage for H-2A 
workers had gone down from $9.04 an hour to $8.02 an hour.

The rules of US farm workers are a great victory for all farm workers, said an elated Arturo Rodriguez, the president of the United Farm 
Workers of America.

Meanwhile, the Growers associations are severely critical of the new rules which are likely to make things difficult for hiring seasonal or temporary farm workers in the US.

In the fiscal year 2009, the US Labor Department had certified 94 percent of the total applications for hiring of H-2A workers for temporary farm work. Out of total 103,955 H-2 A applications filed by employers, 86,014 applications were certified by the Labor Department.

However, a surprising exclusion in the new rules by the US Labor Department is that of dairy workers. As per the current US Labor 
Department rules, a migrant labor can work in the US seasonally and not for the whole year. However, the truth is that dairy farm workers are required throughout the year in the US.

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