Congressman Rick W. Allen (GA-12) introduced H.R. 1778, the Better Agriculture Resources Now (BARN) Act. This bill would reform and strengthen the federal H-2A visa program.
Specifically, the BARN Act would transfer responsibility for certifying employers’ program eligibility from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). This legislation also modifies the filing deadline to extend greater flexibility to applicants, enacts strong reforms to combat visa overstays and fraud, and establishes clear housing requirements for H-2A workers.
Upon introduction, Congressman Allen made the following statement:
“Over the past few years, the American people have become increasingly aware of how fragile our food supply chain really is and the importance of ensuring a secure food supply. The processing delays that our farmers faced during the COVID-19 pandemic reinforced how essential it is that we maintain proper oversight over the H-2A program.
“Having spoken with countless farmers from across the Peach State, I am confident that the forward-thinking reforms contained in the BARN Act will help alleviate delays in this important program and ensure our farmers can meet demands during the critical planting and harvest seasons.”
The BARN Act has been formally endorsed by the Georgia Farm Bureau and the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association.
Georgia Farm Bureau:
“Georgia Farm Bureau appreciates Congressman Allen’s continued support of farmers and his efforts to improve efficiency of federal programs they utilize through measures such as the BARN Act. Georgia producers rely heavily on the H-2A program to meet their demand for a hard-working labor force in the critical times of harvest, but there are many inherent challenges with its current structure. By decreasing delays in start dates, optimizing the application process, and placing this agricultural program under the purview of USDA—which the BARN Act would accomplish—the H-2A program can become a more effective resource for Georgia farmers.”
Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association:
“The H-2A program is critical for Georgia fruit and vegetable growers who rely on the program for temporary workers. Without a consistent and sustainable guest worker program, our ability to provide fresh produce for American consumers will be compromised. H-2A reforms contained in the BARN Act go a long way towards providing stability in the ag labor marketplace and will strengthen our nation’s ability to feed itself while not becoming reliant on foreign counties for our food supply.”
Full text of this legislation is available here.