WATCH LIVE: Agriculture Secretary Vilsack testifies on immigration reform for farm workers

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Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday on the role immigrant farmworkers play in feeding America, as well as proposed reforms to the H-2 visa program.

Watch the hearing live at 10 a.m. ET in the video player above.

Other expected witnesses at the hearing include farmers from Illinois and Oregon as well as Arturo S. Rodriguez, president emeritus of the United Farm Workers of America; Leon Sequeira, former assistant secretary of labor for policy; and Jen Sorenson, president of the National Pork Producers Council.

Immigrant farmworkers make up roughly 73 percent of agriculture farmworkers, and roughly half of hired crop farmworkers lacked legal immigration status as of 2016, according to an estimate by the USDA. Farmworkers have been considered essential throughout the coronavirus pandemic — in April of last year the Department of Homeland Security declared that these employees were “critical to the food supply chain.”

In March, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act in part to address concerns with the H-2A program, which offers workers seasonal visas to labor in agriculture. The legislation would modify the minimum wage for H-2A workers, establish minimum work hours and make the program available for agricultural work that is not temporary or seasonal. It would also create a path to permanent resident status for eligible workers.

The PBS NewsHour will update this story as it develops.

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