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Groups seek Senate support for H-2A visas

U.S. agriculturalists are increasingly concerned about delays in processing applications for H-2A, a federal program that brings in foreign seasonal workers.

Policy and politics
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U.S. agriculturalists are increasingly concerned about delays in processing applications for H-2A, a federal program that brings in foreign seasonal workers.

Both the American Sheep Industry Association and American Farm Bureau Federal are working to address the delays, which have occurred in at least 22 states, according to an informal Farm Bureau survey.
Now, Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., are asking their colleagues to sign a letter expressing concern. Signatures are requested by July 13.
Peter Orwick, executive director of the Denver-based American Sheep Industry Association, says sheep producers should consider asking their senators to sign the letter.
The Farm Bureau, which says the delays are causing some fruit and vegetables to rot unharvested in the field, has created a video addressing the issue.
Computer difficulties, which supposedly have been resolved, led to backlogs in certifying H-2A work visas, the American Sheep Industry Association says it was told.
H-2A work visas are for “temporary or seasonal agricultural work. Limited to citizens or nationals of designated countries, with limited exceptions, if determined to be in U.S. interest,” according to information from the federal government.
U.S. employers who want to hire H-2A workers must show there aren’t enough U.S. workers able, willing, qualified and available to do the temporary work. They also must show that hiring H-2A workers won’t hurt the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers in similar positions.
In 2014, 116,678 H-2A positions were certified nationally, a number that has risen steadily in recent years, according to the U.S. Department of Labor website.
North Carolina led the nation in 2014 with 15,135 certified H-2A positions, most of them involved with tobacco.
Upper Midwest states ranked in the middle nationally. North Dakota had 1,150 positions, Minnesota 978, South Dakota 656 and Montana 575.
For more information contact Courtney Temple at courtney_temple@tillis.senate.gov or Will Hazzard at william_hazzard@cantwell.senate.gov .

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