A proposal he and others have been crafting would be more realistic and more market-based, Wyss said.
It would expand the definition of agriculture to include packinghouses and processors, which are excluded under the current program.
It also would remove mandatory transportation and housing provisions, remove the guaranteed work period and allow workers to follow jobs from farm to farm.
But it would still maintain the requirement that workers have an initial job offer to come into the U.S.
If passed by Congress, the new proposal would not replace the current H2-A program. Instead, it would provide another option, Wyss said.
The industry’s best window of opportunity in Congress is from January through March, he said.
If it gets into May and there isn’t a bill on the table, he said Congress probably will become distracted with budget discussions and continuing resolutions.
One of the more contentious issues may be the path to legalization, Guenther said. Past efforts have tried to tie an ag workers’ ability to gain legal work status to working so many months in the industry.
In the end, he said the industry may have to choose its battles.
“It’s going to be very critical that this new guest-worker program is the best we can come up with,” he said. “We have to have a comprehensive, workable national guest-worker program.”