Tell Lawmakers to Reduce Red Tape for Guest Workers, Small Business

August 10, 2017

As members of Congress return to their home states to visit constituents through Labor Day, the American Horse Council urges members to advocate for legislative solutions to the federal government’s beleaguered temporary worker visa program.  To fix the regulatory chaos that plagues the H-2B application process, tell your elected officials – whether during a town hall meeting or visit to the local farmers’ market – to support the important measures below.  In the event you don’t see your elected officials this summer, you can contact their D.C. offices at 202-225-3121, where staff members will note your concerns and brief your representatives when they return in the fall:

Fiscal Year 2018 Appropriations

For immediate relief, tell lawmakers to support H-2B cap and regulatory flexibility through the Fiscal Year 2018 appropriations process.  Congress is considering language in the current spending bill that will force agencies to manage the visa program in an efficient manner for at least one year.  With the current fiscal year ending September 30, Congress must address funding immediately after Labor Day.  For long-term fixes to the broken system, see the measures below: 

Save Our Small and Seasonal Businesses Act of 2017 (S. 792)

  • This bipartisan bill would establish clear guidelines for employers hiring H-2B workers, assuring that U.S. citizens are not displaced in the job market;
  • Provide cap relief by establishing a common sense exemption for well-vetted workers who have already held a visa during the previous three years;
  • And require increased coordination between the Departments of Labor (DHS) and Homeland Security (DHS) to reduce red tape and delays.

Strengthen Employment and Seasonal Opportunities Now Act of 2017 (SEASON) (H.R. 2004)

  • Similar to the Senate bill, this legislation would expand exemptions for workers who have previously been vetted by immigration officials, thereby increasing cap relief.
  • Establish expedited processing of applications to meet labor demands during peak seasons.
  • And exempt temporary visa holders from tax credits otherwise available to full-time U.S. residents, thereby reducing costs to taxpayers.

In mid-January, the government hit the 33,000 visa cap for the first half of the year.  In March, the agency met its 33,000 visa allocation for the second half of 2017, leaving many small businesses who rely on seasonal labor without workers for the summer months.  Although DHS issued an additional 15,000 visas on July 17, the agency issued those visas on an ad hoc, discretionary basis, undermining common sense business planning.  The July decision will also create limited benefits for small businesses relying on summertime help. 

For more information on immigration and related legislation and federal actions, please contact Bryan Brendle, Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs, at 202-296-4031 or bbrendle@horsecouncil.org

Congress Continues to Promote Land Access, Gives Momentum to “Trails Act” Victory

August 3, 2017

On July 26, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) introduced the “Recreation Not Red-Tape Act (RNR)” (S. 1633, H.R. 3400), legislation that expands the scope of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act (PL 114-245), signed into law in late 2016.  While the RNR focuses on streamlined permitting to access public lands, the bill includes provisions that would authorize the Department of the Interior, through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to enter into cooperative agreements with private parties to promote the role of volunteers in trail maintenance.  The bill also authorizes the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and BLM to develop an interagency trail management plan that will assure uniform maintenance standards for trails crossing jurisdictional lines between the two agencies. 

The Trails Act outlines a detailed program including goals and timetables by which the USDA will leverage private partners to clear trails long overdue for maintenance.  Unlike the RNR Act, which applies to both the BLM and USDA’s National Forest System (NFS), the Trails Act focuses only on trails under the jurisdiction of the NFS.   

Chairman Bishop and Sen. Wyden worked closely on the bill to emphasize key issues – especially outdoor recreation permit streamlining – that will likely attract bipartisan support.  GOP staff with the House Natural Resources Committee, which is the committee of jurisdiction for federal land issues, are encouraging AHC and allies to help drive cosponsors for the legislation, which currently has none.  Committee staff also state that the Subcommittee on Federal Lands will conduct a markup in late September or October, giving members the opportunity to offer technical corrections and amendments to the text. 

To review a summary of the legislation, please see the following link: https://www.wyden.senate.gov/download/?id=DDF411A6-5D21-40BD-B17C-2BF73A2B9C51&download=1.  If you would like more information about the RNR Act and related lobbying activity, please contact Bryan Brendle at bbrendle@horsecouncil.org or 202-296-4031.       

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