In this file:
· AFBF calls for ag labor certainty
· Suspension of visa processing for Mexican seasonal workers hits U.S. farms, fisheries
· Temporary foreign workers not part of Canada’s travel ban
AFBF calls for ag labor certainty
By Amie Simpson, Brownfield
March 18, 2020
A leader with American Farm Bureau says AFBF is pleased that the US government will prioritize H-2A workers who are eligible for an interview waiver in light of the announcement that visa application processing in Mexico will be suspended.
Allison Crittenden, director of congressional relations with AFBF, says there is still a lot of uncertainty.
“So this did bring some relief as we went from thinking we may have zero workers coming in during this time to having some come in,” she says. “However, it’s unknown how many of our H-2A visa applications are interview waiver eligible.”
She says it is a shock to the agriculture industry as farmers and ranchers are ramping up for production in many areas of the country.
“We’re getting ready to go into quarter two and three where we see peak H-2A usage,” she says. “So, what does this mean for farmers and ranchers…it means that it’s still unknown how many of their workers will be able to get to their farms and help them provide food.”
Crittenden says AFBF is asking the administration to provide solutions that will allow the industry to access the workforce it needs.
She says farmers and ranchers remained committed to providing food and resources to Americans...
more, including audio [3:29 min.]
Suspension of visa processing for Mexican seasonal workers hits U.S. farms, fisheries
As harvest season begins amid the coronavirus pandemic, farms and fisheries responsible for feeding the U.S. are expecting fewer guest workers
By Tracy Jan and Laura Reiley, The Washington Post
March 18, 2020
American farmers are bracing for a shortage of seasonal workers following the State Department’s suspension of routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa processing in Mexico, including for temporary migrant laborers, beginning Wednesday.
The delay in visa processing for farmworkers comes just as harvest season begins in Florida. Companies responsible for feeding the country are already expecting fewer available workers to manufacture, deliver and unpack groceries as the coronavirus pandemic intensifies.
The seafood industry, including fisheries and crab-picking in Maryland, whose hiring season starts in April, will also be affected by the U.S. government’s decision.
“One of the most important things we need to do is to make sure that our supply chains for food stay in place, and guest workers are a big part of what drives that engine,” said Sarah Frey, founder and chief executive of Frey Farms, which operates in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and West Virginia. “We have to figure out ways to keep going. Right now, feeding people is an essential service.”
Frey said she was making calls to lawmakers until midnight all week, extolling the important role migrant farmworkers play in the U.S. food supply. Of the 500 to 600 workers Frey employs during peak season, about 250 are on H-2A seasonal worker visas.
Frey said she was expecting her first crew of two dozen workers to come from Mexico in 10 days to help with the watermelon and tomato harvest in LaBelle, Fla. She is expecting more migrant workers through the spring and summer, picking fruits and vegetables at her farms in Indiana and Missouri, and harvesting pumpkins come fall.
The American Farm Bureau Federation warned that the suspension in visa processing in Mexico could have a major effect on agricultural production.
“Under the new restrictions, American farmers will not have access to all of the skilled immigrant labor needed at a critical time in the planting season. This threatens our ability to put food on Americans’ tables,” federation president Zippy Duvall said in a statement.
The federation said it is working with the Trump administration to find safe, practical ways to admit farm laborers as emergency workers under the H-2A guest worker program. “Failing to do so will impact our ability to provide a healthy, affordable domestic food supply,” Duvall said...
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Temporary foreign workers not part of Canada’s travel ban
Ag groups feared TFWs, SAWP employees might not be admitted in time
By GFM Staff, GFM Network News
via Canadian Cattlemen - March 18, 2020
Farm workers coming to Canada under programs for temporary and seasonal workers will be exempt from a ban on foreign nationals entering the country.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Monday that effective Wednesday, foreign nationals from all countries except the U.S. would be temporarily prohibited from entering Canada, in response to the evolving COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
That ban was expanded Wednesday to include “non-essential travel” by U.S. residents for purposes such as recreation and tourism.
Canada’s agriculture groups and provincial officials since Monday have expressed concerns about the ban’s potential impact on the arrival of temporary foreign workers (TFWs), including those coming to Canada under the Seasonal Agriculture Worker Program (SAWP), for work in Canada’s ag and agrifood processing sectors.
However, federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said during a press conference Wednesday that TFWs will be exempt from the travel ban.
“Temporary foreign workers — their work is important to maintaining our country and what they contribute — so they will be allowed to enter Canada as well, after observing a 14 day period of self-isolation,” Blair said.
Government officials confirmed shortly afterward that Blair’s comments apply also to arrivals in Canada under SAWP.
Leading up to Wednesday’s announcement, farm employers of TFWs were “freaking out right now,” as Manitoba Beekeepers Association chair Mark Friesen put it in an interview.
Friesen said Manitoban beekeepers hire between 80 and 100 TFWs per year, adding that some operations will need those employees soon and that others may not need them until the end of April...