The House Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee held an initial hearing on ag labor issues Wednesday, and afterwards the chairwoman, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) said she would “engage in discussions” to see if an agreement could be reached on a possible bill.

House Democrats say they are sympathetic to farmers who are struggling to find sufficient labor, but any compromise on fixes to the H-2A visa program will likely require support from farmworkers.

“Obviously we can’t delegate the decisionmaking to growers and farmworkers. But if they are able to come to agreement it may be of assistance to the Congress,” Lofgren said.

Lofgren has indicated that she wants to pass a standalone ag labor bill that would provide a path to legal status for existing workers who are in the country illegally as well as to reform H-2A. She did not give a timetable for producing a bill. “We’re moving as quickly as possible,” Lofgren said.

Lofgen also said she would not comment on discussions she has had with the White House, where President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, had been leading some work on immigration reforms, that could include agricultural labor.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Democrats led by Lofgren joined Republicans in expressing concern about the impact of a tight labor market on farms.

The hearing also highlighted some ongoing differences between farmers and farmworker representatives on key issues, particularly wage rates. Existing wage requirements in the H-2A program are tied to average agricultural wages in each state, and the H-2A rates jumped as much as 23 percent in some states this year, noted Bill Brim, a Georgia grower who testified at Wednesday’s hearing. Farm groups want to see the rules reformed.

Tom Nassif, president and CEO of the Western Growers Association, told the subcommittee that reforms to H-2A must ensure that it is not “an administrative nightmare” and “doesn’t price our producers out of business.” In his opening statement, Nassif pointedly addressed fellow farm groups as well as lawmakers in calling for a bipartisan compromise.

But Arturo Rodriguez, the president of the United Farm Workers, and Areli Arteaga, a former farmworker whose parents both are agricultural laborers, told the subcommittee that farm wages needed to be improved. “We can’t expect people to go into the most difficult work there is in this nation … and not pay them a decent wage like anybody else,” he said. Rodriguez and Arteaga also disagree with agricultural groups that farmworkers who are now working illegally would leave agriculture if they are given legal status.

Last year, Western Growers broke with the American Farm Bureau Federation and opposed a Republican agricultural labor bill that would have replaced H-2A with a program that would capped the number of visas annually and required workers in the country illegally to apply for visas and regularly return to their home country. The bill provided no legal status for the workers’ family members.

USDA on Wednesday took a step aimed at making H-2A easier for farmers to use by announcing a webpage at that producers can use to start the application process. Farmers provide the date they need workers to start and then receive a checklist of steps they need to take, with links to required documents.