A Better Way For H-2A

Most growers agree the H-2A guestworker program is not functioning well. Today, only about 75,000 workers participate in the program, while some estimates put illegal immigrants working on America’s farms at 800,000.

To make the program more user-friendly, the Bush Administration has proposed changes, which are currently up for review. The industry has welcomed some of the proposed changes, like attestation, which should eliminate paperwork. However, some suggest the proposed changes will create more problems than they solve.

No Improvement Here

H-2A USA, a company that specializes in helping growers bring in guestworkers under H-2A, knows the labor program inside and out. Mike Nobles, CEO of H-2A USA, provided comments on the changes in a letter to the Department of Labor. The letter addresses point-by-point problems with the suggested changes, concluding each with the verbage: “No improvement here.”

One of the biggest problems is the fee increases with no cap on per-worker charges. In the letter, Nobles states: “The application fees will increase from $100 to $200 for the basic application plus the ‘per worker’ fee increases from $10 (with a $1,000 cap) to $100 per worker (with no cap). As an example of the exorbitant increase, a farmer who uses 400 workers is now paying $1,000 (a $100 app. fee and $900 fee for the 400 workers). Now that fee becomes $200 for the application fee and $100 for each worker or $40,200. This single change will all but kill the entire H-2A program.”

Increasing the application time from 45 days to 75 days also could create problems for some growers, because it would require them to submit applications for workers before they even plant in some cases.

Housing Horror

One of the biggest challenges of the current H-2A structure is securing suitable housing for guestworkers. The attempt to fix the problem with housing vouchers opens the door for abuse and implementation problems.

Nobles’ letter states: “These changes don’t adequately address such issues as: What landlord would be willing to accept a voucher in lieu of cash rent payments? Is State Workforce Agencies (SWA) inspection required in advance of workers’ selection? If it is, there is no improvement here. If workers select their own housing, where do they live during the selection process? If housing is not inspected and approved by the SWA in advance, what prevents housing abuses?”

Dollar Differences

Some growers have argued that current H-2A rules don’t allow for wage rates that are reflective of regional differences. The proposed changes would base the adverse effect wage rate on 500 locations across the country rather than the current 18 regions.

Whether the program stays as is or is changed, Nobles contends an overhaul of the entire immigrant-worker system is needed. “We fully support the AgJOBS bill and a path to citizenship, however, until Congress passes such legislation, we need to see real improvement in the H-2A program,” he concludes.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
Fruits
February 27, 2017
Warm February Concerning, But Fruit Growers Shouldn’t Panic
While maps produced by the U.S. Geological Survey do show spring appears to be arriving early, Extension experts don’t expect a repeat of 2012. Read More
Nuts
February 27, 2017
Using Drones To Scout Almonds From Above
At California State University, Fresno, scientists are studying how drones can save almond growers water — and help them use less labor too. Read More
UF/IFAS researcher Cristina Pisani examines ailing avocado tree
Crop Protection
February 27, 2017
New Discovery Smells Like Victory for Florida Avocado Growers
Scientists find naturally occurring repellent that could keep disease-carrying beetles at bay. Read More
Mycelial fans armillaria root rot
Nuts
February 27, 2017
Getting to the Root of Devastating Stone Fruit Fungus
Armillaria root rot is a death sentence for trees and replant sites; however, researchers are looking to breed fungus-resistant rootstocks to make replanting economically feasible. Read More
Berries
February 26, 2017
Advantages to Growing Southern Highbush Blueberries
Growers in some regions where temperatures don’t get too low could consider the benefits of Southern highbush varieties. Read More
Grapes
February 26, 2017
Winegrowers See Total Sustainability in Their Sights
Sonoma County Winegrowers eyes 2019 to become the U.S.’s first completely sustainable wine region. Read More
Fruits
February 25, 2017
Let’s Stand Up for Science
Yes, there’s an art to agriculture, but its very definition is the science of farming, so you have a deeply rooted connection to scientists. Read More
Florida citrus grove
Citrus
February 25, 2017
Citrus Research Investments Yielding Positive Results
Despite still having mounds of wood to chop, grower, federal, and state programs collectively are making a dent. Read More
Fruits
February 25, 2017
Major Challenges to the Fruit Industry Are Closer than You Think
Don’t underestimate the need for research, as innovation is becoming an urgent necessity for our future. Read More
iphone close-up
GenNext Growers
February 24, 2017
New Mobile Apps for Farmers to Grow on the Go
Thanks to the latest in software technology, real-time decisions can be made with one swipe of your finger. Read More
The Latest
Fruits
February 27, 2017
Warm February Concerning, But Fruit Grow…
While maps produced by the U.S. Geological Survey do show spring appears to be arriving early, Extension experts don’t expect a repeat of 2012. Read More
Nuts
February 27, 2017
Using Drones To Scout Almonds From Above
At California State University, Fresno, scientists are studying how drones can save almond growers water — and help them use less labor too. Read More
Crop Protection
February 27, 2017
New Discovery Smells Like Victory for Fl…
Scientists find naturally occurring repellent that could keep disease-carrying beetles at bay. Read More
Nuts
February 27, 2017
Getting to the Root of Devastating Stone…
Armillaria root rot is a death sentence for trees and replant sites; however, researchers are looking to breed fungus-resistant rootstocks to make replanting economically feasible. Read More
Berries
February 26, 2017
Advantages to Growing Southern Highbush …
Growers in some regions where temperatures don’t get too low could consider the benefits of Southern highbush varieties. Read More
Grapes
February 26, 2017
Winegrowers See Total Sustainability in …
Sonoma County Winegrowers eyes 2019 to become the U.S.’s first completely sustainable wine region. Read More
Fruits
February 25, 2017
Let’s Stand Up for Science
Yes, there’s an art to agriculture, but its very definition is the science of farming, so you have a deeply rooted connection to scientists. Read More
Citrus
February 25, 2017
Citrus Research Investments Yielding Pos…
Despite still having mounds of wood to chop, grower, federal, and state programs collectively are making a dent. Read More
Fruits
February 25, 2017
Major Challenges to the Fruit Industry A…
Don’t underestimate the need for research, as innovation is becoming an urgent necessity for our future. Read More
GenNext Growers
February 24, 2017
New Mobile Apps for Farmers to Grow on t…
Thanks to the latest in software technology, real-time decisions can be made with one swipe of your finger. Read More
GenNext Growers
February 24, 2017
In-The-Field Learning Invaluable for Gen…
Annual tour allows Florida's future farming leaders the chance to have open and honest discussions with CEOs and managers and tap into their knowledge. Read More
Grower Achievement Award
February 24, 2017
Know a Vegetable Grower Who’s Innovative…
Then nomination him or her for American Vegetable Grower magazine’s 2017 Grower Achievement Award. Read More
Apples & Pears
February 24, 2017
Don’t Underestimate the Importance…
Trellising study helps growers understand the basics of setting up an orchard infrastructure properly. Read More
Berries
February 23, 2017
Primocane: A Major Innovation in Berry P…
I’ve witnessed the rise of primocane-fruiting blackberries, from first selections to integration in the market. Read More
Fruits
February 23, 2017
First California Ag Innovation Showcase …
University of California, Davis will be the setting for a ground-breaking conference on emerging technology for food and high-value agriculture. Read More
Disease Control
February 23, 2017
Spot Sclerotinia Before It Stops Your Ve…
Learn how to identify, the survival and spread, as well as management methods for this malady that goes by many names. Read More
Berries
February 22, 2017
Florida Strawberry Picking Contest a Big…
Fourth-annual fundraising event brings in more than $100,000 to benefit children of local farmworkers. Read More
Citrus
February 22, 2017
New Insecticide Available to Combat Suck…
Minecto Pro from Syngenta has received EPA approval for use in specialty and vegetable crops to control lepidopteran and other pests. Read More