Department Of Labor Proposes Suspending Changes To H-2A Program

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.

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"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."

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Avatar for Anonymous Anonymous says:

The H-2A program has several issues that need attention. It is in now way a perfect program, from the employee or employers side. Our farm has utilized this program for several years and has had to adjust our H/R policies and procedures many times to assure compliance with the multiple agencies requirements. The changes of December required additional changes and now we want to suspend those. My recommendation is to figure out what you want and then take comment on those changes. Suspending the changes from this close is irresponsible government. If you would like to further discuss viable, realistic, sensible changes to the program in the future please just contact me. Please don’t suspend what you just changed a few months ago. I can’t keep up with the changes now.

Avatar for Anonymous Anonymous says:

It is very strange that H2A employers in two of the largest H2A-using states (Georgia and North Carolina)have had little or no input into USDOL’s decision to suspend the new regulations OR in agreeing to the “reforms” contained in AgJobs. AgJobs is NOT the answer for growers who have been using legal, protected and wellpaid labor for years under H2A. The previous commenter, also an H2A user, was correct. Ask those who use the program what needs to be done!!

Avatar for Anonymous Anonymous says:

It’s obvious that the Obama Administration, whose Labor Secretary Hilda Solis had been in office only a few hours before announcing the suspension of the recently-adopted H-2A regulations, is listening only to legal services groups and farmworker advocates where farm labor issues are concerned. Although the H-2A program under the new January regulations has some problems, at least those regulations were the reasoned product of over a year’s formal rulemaking. The January regulations also gave employers six months to familiarize themselves with the new changes. H-2A employers have planned and budgeted based on the new regulations. This suspension will cause employers confusion and expense. It’s pretty clear that the Obama Administration arrived intent on abandoning the new regulations without any input from the H-2A employer community. And that may be an early indicator of what we can expect on farm labor issues over the next three-plus years.

Avatar for Anonymous Anonymous says:

It appears that we the employers of H-2A have not been asked by the new administration how this new rule will affect us. Our budgets have been set for this year. Our operating loans have already been obtained which for alot of farmers have been hard to do in this economy. It seems that the administration would be meeting with our farm organizations the same as they are the legal service and farmworker organizations. Just as other business are having a hard time during this economic downturn so are farmers. If anything we at least need time to see if the new program will work.

Avatar for Anonymous Anonymous says:

I don’t understand how a President and his administration can be out to “doom” the life-blood of this country. If they cared at all about agriculture; they wouldn’t be talking about cutting direct-payments or only giving them to farms so small their production is insignificant. If they cared at all about agriculture; they wouldn’t have raised cigarette taxes $.61 per pack. If they cared at all about agriculture; they would leave the changes to the H-2A program in tact to give us (the farmer) the economic relief we need. The largest problem by far with H-2A has always been the cost. WAGES and other expenses have been more than ridiculous and more than a lot of farmers can stand. AgJOBS is NOT the fix we need. H-2A reform is. We need a government who cares about all farmers and is not in the pocket of unions, legal services, and others who just care about themselves. These people could care less about the farmworkers. If agriculture goes down, so will this country. I guarantee it.

Avatar for Anonymous Anonymous says:

The US govt. should halt all work programs that let any and all foreign workers into this country.
We don’t need an H-2A or any program that puts
foreign workers before the American workers . This
program has been abused in the past and will be
again . Since we have 9% unemployment and 19 % part-time employment in the US all foreign workers
should be sent back to their own countries immediately . The foreign workers come here on an
agriculture work program then leave that field
and work in the construction trades or go illegal.
It’s time to round them up and send them packing .

Avatar for Anonymous Anonymous says:

The H-2A program has several issues that need attention. It is in now way a perfect program, from the employee or employers side. Our farm has utilized this program for several years and has had to adjust our H/R policies and procedures many times to assure compliance with the multiple agencies requirements. The changes of December required additional changes and now we want to suspend those. My recommendation is to figure out what you want and then take comment on those changes. Suspending the changes from this close is irresponsible government. If you would like to further discuss viable, realistic, sensible changes to the program in the future please just contact me. Please don’t suspend what you just changed a few months ago. I can’t keep up with the changes now.

Avatar for Anonymous Anonymous says:

It is very strange that H2A employers in two of the largest H2A-using states (Georgia and North Carolina)have had little or no input into USDOL’s decision to suspend the new regulations OR in agreeing to the “reforms” contained in AgJobs. AgJobs is NOT the answer for growers who have been using legal, protected and wellpaid labor for years under H2A. The previous commenter, also an H2A user, was correct. Ask those who use the program what needs to be done!!

Avatar for Anonymous Anonymous says:

It’s obvious that the Obama Administration, whose Labor Secretary Hilda Solis had been in office only a few hours before announcing the suspension of the recently-adopted H-2A regulations, is listening only to legal services groups and farmworker advocates where farm labor issues are concerned. Although the H-2A program under the new January regulations has some problems, at least those regulations were the reasoned product of over a year’s formal rulemaking. The January regulations also gave employers six months to familiarize themselves with the new changes. H-2A employers have planned and budgeted based on the new regulations. This suspension will cause employers confusion and expense. It’s pretty clear that the Obama Administration arrived intent on abandoning the new regulations without any input from the H-2A employer community. And that may be an early indicator of what we can expect on farm labor issues over the next three-plus years.

Avatar for Anonymous Anonymous says:

It appears that we the employers of H-2A have not been asked by the new administration how this new rule will affect us. Our budgets have been set for this year. Our operating loans have already been obtained which for alot of farmers have been hard to do in this economy. It seems that the administration would be meeting with our farm organizations the same as they are the legal service and farmworker organizations. Just as other business are having a hard time during this economic downturn so are farmers. If anything we at least need time to see if the new program will work.

Avatar for Anonymous Anonymous says:

I don’t understand how a President and his administration can be out to “doom” the life-blood of this country. If they cared at all about agriculture; they wouldn’t be talking about cutting direct-payments or only giving them to farms so small their production is insignificant. If they cared at all about agriculture; they wouldn’t have raised cigarette taxes $.61 per pack. If they cared at all about agriculture; they would leave the changes to the H-2A program in tact to give us (the farmer) the economic relief we need. The largest problem by far with H-2A has always been the cost. WAGES and other expenses have been more than ridiculous and more than a lot of farmers can stand. AgJOBS is NOT the fix we need. H-2A reform is. We need a government who cares about all farmers and is not in the pocket of unions, legal services, and others who just care about themselves. These people could care less about the farmworkers. If agriculture goes down, so will this country. I guarantee it.

Avatar for Anonymous Anonymous says:

The US govt. should halt all work programs that let any and all foreign workers into this country.
We don’t need an H-2A or any program that puts
foreign workers before the American workers . This
program has been abused in the past and will be
again . Since we have 9% unemployment and 19 % part-time employment in the US all foreign workers
should be sent back to their own countries immediately . The foreign workers come here on an
agriculture work program then leave that field
and work in the construction trades or go illegal.
It’s time to round them up and send them packing .

Avatar for W. Dennison W. Dennison says:

How is it legal for the U.S. government to act as a labor union to foreign workers? We can only afford to pay our college graduate children minimum wage here on the farm, but if we have H-2A workers, we must pay much more in wages, guaranteed hours, travel and housing. Farmers can't afford H-2A.