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
Crop ProtectionAt Paramount Farming, Mating Disruption Pays Off
February 10, 2015
To say Brad Higbee is an expert in mating disruption, the use of pheromones to confuse target pests and reduce Read More
Crop ProtectionGrower Experienced In Biocontrols Says: Be Patient
February 4, 2015
The use of biocontrols in all aspects of agriculture is becoming more widespread. But incorporating biocontrols in a vegetable farming Read More
FruitsWorkshop Set In Florida To Help Grow Local Food Movement
March 2, 2015
Meeting part of nationwide effort to train people how to attain grants for USDA’s Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion programs. Read More
Citrus18 Must-Have Apps For GenNext Growers
March 1, 2015
We asked about your favorite mobile applications, and here's what you had to say. Read More
Florida Ag ExpoGrowers Get The Lowdown On Cooling Crops
March 1, 2015
Demonstration shows how hydrocooling can help get the most out of fruits and vegetables once harvested. Read More
FruitsDon’t Be Afraid To Charge More For Value Of Agritainment [Opinion]
February 28, 2015
A higher admission price helps to sets a level of expectation and helps offset the costs of running a successful farm marketing operation. Read More
Apples & PearsCompany Responsible For First GMO Apples Is Sold
February 27, 2015
Okanagan Specialty Fruits, the company behind the world's first non-browning apples, fetches $41 million. Read More
Stone FruitPeach Training Systems Aren’t One-Size-Fits-All
February 27, 2015
Although pedestrian, ladderless orchards are increasing in California, growers in Pennsylvania are opting for tall V-training systems. Read More
IrrigationNo Federal Water For California’s Central Valley Growers – Again
February 27, 2015
Skimpy snowpack leads Bureau of Reclamation to make unprecedented announcement that there will be a zero initial allocation for the second year in a row. Read More
Apples & PearsThe Recession That Keeps On Taking
February 27, 2015
We’re still seeing the aftermath of the Great Recession on consumers’ purchasing habits seven years later. Read More
Grower Achievement AwardSubmit Your Nomination For The 2015 Grower Achievement Award
February 27, 2015
American Vegetable Grower magazine's annual award is designed to recognize an innovative operation that represents the spirit of excellence. Read More
FruitsMaximize Produce Profits By Focusing On Soil Health
February 27, 2015
Cover crops are just one of the ways you can help boost your trees’ and vines’ performance and your bottom line. Read More
The Latest
FruitsWorkshop Set In Florida To Help Grow Local Food Movemen…
March 2, 2015
Meeting part of nationwide effort to train people how to attain grants for USDA’s Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion programs. Read More
Citrus18 Must-Have Apps For GenNext Growers
March 1, 2015
We asked about your favorite mobile applications, and here's what you had to say. Read More
Florida Ag ExpoGrowers Get The Lowdown On Cooling Crops
March 1, 2015
Demonstration shows how hydrocooling can help get the most out of fruits and vegetables once harvested. Read More
FruitsDon’t Be Afraid To Charge More For Value Of Agrit…
February 28, 2015
A higher admission price helps to sets a level of expectation and helps offset the costs of running a successful farm marketing operation. Read More
Apples & PearsCompany Responsible For First GMO Apples Is Sold
February 27, 2015
Okanagan Specialty Fruits, the company behind the world's first non-browning apples, fetches $41 million. Read More
Stone FruitPeach Training Systems Aren’t One-Size-Fits-All
February 27, 2015
Although pedestrian, ladderless orchards are increasing in California, growers in Pennsylvania are opting for tall V-training systems. Read More
IrrigationNo Federal Water For California’s Central Valley Grower…
February 27, 2015
Skimpy snowpack leads Bureau of Reclamation to make unprecedented announcement that there will be a zero initial allocation for the second year in a row. Read More
Apples & PearsThe Recession That Keeps On Taking
February 27, 2015
We’re still seeing the aftermath of the Great Recession on consumers’ purchasing habits seven years later. Read More
Grower Achievement AwardSubmit Your Nomination For The 2015 Grower Achievement …
February 27, 2015
American Vegetable Grower magazine's annual award is designed to recognize an innovative operation that represents the spirit of excellence. Read More
FruitsMaximize Produce Profits By Focusing On Soil Health
February 27, 2015
Cover crops are just one of the ways you can help boost your trees’ and vines’ performance and your bottom line. Read More
FNV logo
CitrusPMA Announces Funding For Major Produce Marketing Progr…
February 26, 2015
The produce industry is getting into brand marketing in a big way. The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) has announced the launch of a new promotional campaign - FNV - designed to take a page from the marketing strategies of big-money consumer brands like Nike and Apple. Read More
GrapesWashington Winegrape Industry Announces Honors
February 26, 2015
Awards included Grower of the Year, Industry Service, Lifetime Achievement, Restaurant of the Year and Posters. Read More
GrapesSonoma Agriculture Preservation Plan Unveiled
February 26, 2015
Winegrowers’ 100-year business plan is the first of its kind in agriculture. Read More
Apples & PearsNew Plant Growth Regulator Use Expanded
February 26, 2015
Ten more states grant registrations for Fine Americas’ new Kudos PGR. Read More
Apples & PearsFrom The Road: IFTA Conference Day 5
February 26, 2015
Carlson lecture highlights where IFTA has been and looks to the next generation to continue the legacy. Read More
FruitsHave Faith In Science – Which Means GMOs [Opinion…
February 25, 2015
When it comes to farming, sticking with established, commonly accepted science is the way to go. Read More
Apples & PearsFrom The Road: IFTA Conference Day 4
February 25, 2015
Creating fruiting walls with mechanical hedgers can help increase light interception in the canopy, say researchers and growers. Read More
PotatoesPotato Grower Black Gold Farms Aquires George Wood Farm…
February 25, 2015
The transaction includes all production and packing operations.   Read More