A summary of the proposal was released Tuesday ahead of the official Senate introduction Wednesday morning, in which provisions such as the "W-Visa" program and the Agricultural Job Opportunity, Benefits and Security Act were outlined.
Additionally, ag employers will be at the "back of the line" for implementation of the e-verify system, which uses an internet database to determine employment eligibility. Leaders say the Senators' proposal allows the "maximum time" for new ag provisions to be completely functional before e-verify is added to the mix.
Also a key issue for ag employers is the dwindling number of employees able to fill open positions. To address the situation, the proposal allows for a flexible cap on the number of workers that can enter the U.S. for agricultural work, based on need. The USDA Secretary will be responsible for adjusting the cap.
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Michael Bennet, D-Colo., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., Robert Menendez, D-N.J. and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., are among the Congress members active in crafting the draft legislation.
AWC and UFW officials say they are beginning to discuss a similar plan with House members, though they declined to say specifically with who or when a plan will be negotiated.
"There is a long way to go with this legislation," said Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association. "But we are committed. We are going to bring the weight of growers throughout all 50 states to the Senate and to the House in support of the legislation."