The recent government shutdown created a backlog of H-2A applications which spurred a letter from more than 20 members of Congress to encourage the Department of Labor and other agencies to find a streamlined and efficient way to process the applications as soon as possible.
The winter fruit and vegetable season is about to come into full harvest, and growers in states such as Florida and Arizona will be severely impacted if they do not have the harvest workers ready to go in the next several weeks.
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Congressmen Sam Farr (CA-D) and Tom Rooney (Fla.-R) spearheaded joint congressional letters to key government agencies responsible for managing the H-2A federal agriculture guest worker program.
One letter to Alejandro Mayorkas, director of the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, says:
“Thank you for your attention to the urgent matter of processing backlogged H-2A visa applications pending for upcoming harvest season in critical fruit and vegetable production regions, particularly Florida and the southwestern United States. It is critical that these visas receive priority handling, more so than others because without the workforce food will literally rot on the vine.”
“Getting H-2A applications processed in a timely manner, even without a government shutdown, is always a challenge for produce providers,” said Robert Guenther, United Fresh senior vice president of public policy. “Paperwork being backed up for over two weeks really puts growers who desperately need workers in a tighter bind.
“The strong bipartisan group of members of Congress is sending a critical message urging relevant agencies to move resources as needed to address this issue, and offering specific recommendations for speeding up the approval process,” Guenther said. “Congressman Farr and Congressman Rooney have been champions of the produce industry, and this letter demonstrates their commitment. United Fresh supports and will complement their work. 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.”