After the government shutdown halted H-2A applications for more than two weeks, industry and Congressional leaders are pushing federal agencies to expedite processing of paperwork necessary for agricultural guest workers to arrive in the U.S. in time for the start of the winter vegetable season in November.
Rep. Sam Farr, D-Calif., and Tom Rooney, R-Fla., gathered the support of 20 other lawmakers in encouraging the Department of Labor and other federal officials to expedite processing of H-2A guest worker applications growers in Arizona, Florida and other states who need farm labor late this year.
“United Fresh will do everything we can to monitor agency efforts to clear up the backlog, and ensure it’s done as fast and efficiently,” Robert Guenther, senior vice president of public policy for United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., said in a news release.
Farm advocates and produce industry associations, including Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers and United Fresh Produce Association, have been vocal about urgent need to catch up with H-2A applications.
It appears the government is listening.
“The anecdotal evidence and the conversations I’ve had with folks is that the government agencies that are involved in H-2A are all trying to figure out ways to get caught up on the work,” said Lee Wicker, deputy director of the North Carolina Growers Association, Vass, N.C.. “There is no way to make up the two weeks we lost, but I do think the agencies are trying to do everything they can to catch up and get the paperwork completed,” he said Oct. 23.
President Obama’s remarks about his intention to take up immigration reform may help add to the momentum to resolve the H-2A crisis, said Ray Gilmer, vice president of issues management and communication for United Fresh.