WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), and U.S. Representative Trent Kelly (R-MS), introduced the Paperwork Reduction for Farmers Act to create a more efficient process for farmers applying for new H-2A workers or reapplying for the same employees.

Previously, farmers have reported massive financial losses due to H-2A application delays, and excessive paperwork has resulted in backlogs lasting 30 days or longer at both the Department of Labor (DOL) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

“The Paperwork Reduction for Farmers Act streamlines the H-2A application process, making the program more flexible for farmers and workers’ changing needs,” Sen. Paul said. “By removing layers of frustrating bureaucracy, these common sense reforms will help free farmers to devote more of their time and resources to their passion.”

“Giving family farmers and ranchers more flexibility and certainty will help Montana’s number one industry,” Sen. Tester said. “This common sense bill will bring the process for hiring extra hands into the 21st century and make it easier for farmers and ranchers by reducing bureaucratic delays, and saving folks money.”

“Farmers in the First District have to endure government red tape when they apply for seasonal workers,” Rep. Kelly said. “They often wait 30 days or longer to get applications processed which can have an impact on their operations. That’s unacceptable. This common sense legislation helps modernize and streamline the application process.”

You can find the text of the Paperwork Reduction for Farmers Act HERE and a summary of its provisions below.

The Paperwork Reduction for Farmers Act:

Creates a simplified application for employers hiring returning workers and guarantees worker approval pending any necessary security checks. Farmers must currently reapply for their returning H-2A employees as if they were new workers.

Allows multi-employer joint contracts so workers are guaranteed their hours without farmers struggling to find either enough work for employees or extra workers when there is too much to do.

Enables farmers to apply for workers with staggered start and end dates on the same application, eliminating a massive paperwork burden.

Updates a system that still often relies on snail mail by directing the Department of Labor to create an online application process and USCIS to create an online “Request for Evidence” (RFE) system, which would then require USCIS to provide an update within ten business days instead of delaying the process for weeks.

Provides due process by requiring the government to promptly give a reason for the denial or delay of H-2A workers to the employer and to provide a reasonable time to remedy the problem.

Widens eligibility by including livestock workers (including dairy and poultry) and equine workers as qualifying H-2A employees.

Speeds up the approval process for replacement workers should hires prematurely abandon their position or fail to appear for employment, ensuring farmers are not left short-handed for the season.

Congressman Trent Kelly represents Mississippi’s First Congressional District. He serves on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Committee on Agriculture and he is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Investigations, Oversight, and Regulations for the House Small Business Committee. This is his second term.