Friday, April 22, 2016

Agricultural lobbies say feds take too long processing visas for guest farm workers

The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture say federal agencies are taking too long processing visas in the H-2A program "for guest workers who help plant and harvest fields," Chris Clayton reports for DTN The Progressive Farmer. Farm Bureau "said the situation is approaching a crisis and guaranteed that crops would rot in fields this year due to the bureaucratic problems. Farm Bureau leaders were aware of problems in at least 20 states."

The Department of Labor said that in fiscal 2015, 139,832 H-2A workers filled positions around the country, a 16.5 percent increase over 2014, Clayton reports. "The number of H-2A requests and positions filled has been steadily increasing in recent years, particularly as states and the federal government have more frequently targeted illegal ag labor."

Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall told Clayton, “Many farmer members have called us and state Farm Bureaus asking for help. They face serious hurdles in getting visas for workers in time to tend and harvest this year’s crops. Paperwork delays have created a backlog of 30 days or more in processing H-2A applications at both the Department of Labor and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.”

Michigan Director of Agriculture Jamie Clover Adams told Clayton, “The H-2A program has seen an 85 percent increase in requests over the last five years with little additional resources allocated. The department needs to prioritize their resources to address this backlog. The Departments of Labor, State and Homeland Security need to better coordinate resources and communication to alleviate these delays and inform growers when their labor is coming. Further, USDA needs to be consulted and help these agencies understand the seasonal nature of American agriculture.” (Read more)

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