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National Ag Labor Concerns

Labor Concerns:
Due to the closing of consulates in Mexico and cross-border travel, we have seen a disruption in the processing of H2A guest workers returning to ag labor in the U.S. Thanks to some quick work by the White House and USDA, Secretary Perdue was able to secure some special waivers that are helping accelerate that process.

As of Monday, The Mexican consulate and the US embassy were still doing visa waiver interviews for some returning workers (see more information here) Secretary Purdue relayed that this is a top priority for him and the administration to keep visa processing open.

The Jamaican consulate has to close due to workers contracting the virus but will open the beginning of April using emergency procedures. The South African consulate is open and using emergency procedures but flights to get here are restricting worker access. Guatemala is completely closed. A letter to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo expressing the need for ag workers as essential was crafted by the Ag Workforce Coalition and can be found here. Incoming workers still must comply with border health screenings which are adding up to a two-week delay at the border.

Congressional offices have expressed housing concerns and the ability to follow CDC rules to keep visa workers safe while they are in-country. You can view the handout here. Ongoing discussions about how to navigate the cumbersome bureaucracy surrounding the H2A program including sharing workers between farms and making transfers more flexible due to the situation continue to take place. Discussions on how workers might be affected as they return to their home country are also happening. There is estimated to be only 6% of workers out of the normal 100,000 April and May workers already in the US for early season work. Congressional offices express concern that if foreign governments close movement between countries, there will be an additional labor shortage that industries will need help filling.

Resources for keeping up-to-date:
Farmers can voice concerns and individual issues by emailing aglabor@usda.gov.  Also, by monitoring specific Embassy websites they’re interested in for the most up-to-date information on countries. Lastly, farmers can get up-to-date info from USDA at https://www.farmers.gov/manage/h2a