H2A Visas

 

It’s planting season across much of the United States, and for some farmers who rely on foreign guest workers for help in the fields, the pandemic is getting in the way.  

Farmers have been struggling for years to hire enough workers, and increasingly turn to the H-2A temporary visa program.

Previously, farmers took out print newspaper ads for positions they were hiring for. But starting in late October, the U.S. Department of Labor will manage those postings on a government website and use state workforce agencies to advertise jobs locally.

More than 240,000 guestworkers, many from Mexico, work on U.S. farms for several months each year as a part of the federal H-2A visa program. This year, farmers and industry associations worry the ongoing government shutdown could impede the workers’ arrival.

But the visa program, which is overseen by no fewer than three U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security, is unimpeded. That’s according to officials from the Office of Foreign Labor Certification and United States Citizen and Immigration Services. Both of those agencies are fully funded.

The high-desert town of Palisade, Colorado, is synonymous with fresh, locally grown peaches. Years ago, thousands of migrant workers would flock here each year in August to harvest the fuzzy fruit. But today, on its narrow dirt roads, Bruce Talbott drives a truck loaded down with 9 tons of wine grapes.