H-2A on pace for record participation as more farms take part

Demand for the H-2A visa program slowed for the third quarter but still shows increased usage for the year.

The Department of Labor says certified positions declined more than three percent compared to the same period last year, but are up more than 11 percent for the first three-quarters of the year and likely will exceed 300,000 for the first time in the program’s history.

American Farm Bureau economist Veronica Nigh says it seems farms are catching up with COVID-19 demand disruptions and backlogs. Nigh also says the total number of positions requested was up on the year which she believes was to hedge against potential pandemic disruptions.

Sarah Black is the general manager of Great Lakes Ag Labor Services.  Her organization helps farmers source legal workers through the H-2A program and says the need is wide and far.

“Maybe some people used to think that it was, ‘I just need somebody to pick apples,’ now it’s everywhere,” she explains.  “Everybody needs labor.”

Black tells Brownfield as long as jobs are seasonal, up to 10 months, any farmer can use the H-2A program.

“If labor is a struggle on your farm and you season jobs and you’re interested—plan ahead,” she says.  “It’s going to take at least six months to really work through that and you really ought to be thinking about next year’s labor situation now.”

She says farms are required to provide housing, transportation, and follow additional regulations, but many find a stable and legal workforce is worth the effort.

Brownfield interviewed Black during the recent AgroExpo in St. Johns.

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