Sens. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Charles Schumer (N.Y.) introduced the H-2A Improvement Act, which authorizes foreign dairy workers, sheepherders and goat herders to remain in the United States for an initial period of three years and gives the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services the authority to approve a worker for an additional three-year period.
Because of the uniqueness of the sheep industry, sheep producers have successfully participated under special provisions of the H-2A program designed by the Department of Labor (DOL) since the 1950s. The dairy industry has been unsuccessful in its petitions to utilize these same provisions.
This legislation has been introduced in part because the DOL announced last February that it has "no legal authority" to include the dairy industry in the H-2A visa program. Under present law, farms that hire seasonal workers to harvest fruits and vegetables can utilize the H-2A visa program. Dairy farms are not included because milk production is not considered seasonal work.