The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) has announced the proposed suspension for nine months of a final rule implementing changes to the H-2A program, which allows U.S. agricultural businesses to employ foreign workers in temporary or seasonal agricultural jobs. The department’s proposed action is open for public comment for 10 days.
"Because many stakeholders have raised concerns about the H-2A regulations, this proposed suspension is the prudent and responsible action to take," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "Suspending the rule would allow the department to review and reconsider the regulation, while minimizing disruption to state workforce agencies, employers and workers."
The proposed suspension of the final rule will appear in the Federal Register on March 17. The final rule appeared in the Federal Register on Dec. 18, 2008, and took effect on Jan. 17, 2009.
The H-2A nonimmigrant program is designed to provide agricultural businesses with short-term foreign agricultural labor when there are not enough domestic workers. Receiving an H-2A labor certification is the first step in the employment-based immigration process to work on a farm.
In 2008, the department granted North Carolina, Georgia and Florida the largest numbers of H-2A labor certifications.
The Labor Department’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification will continue to accept and process H-2A applications during the proposed suspension period. Any final action on today’s proposed suspension will appear in a future Federal Register notice.
"This decision underscores the need to pass legislation such as AgJOBS that offers a permanent solution to labor reform," said Diane Kurrle, director of public affairs for the U.S. Apple Association in Vienna, VA. "Changes rules along the way makes it difficult for our growers to find continuity in seeking a reliable labor force."