NPPC Calls for Labor Solutions as Visa Processing Halts in Mexico
Jennifer Shike, FarmJournal's Pork
March 18, 2020
The decision by the U.S. Department of State to suspend visa processing in Mexico because of COVID-19 threatens to worsen the labor shortage in the pork industry and across U.S. agriculture, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) said in a release on Wednesday.
In response to the global pandemic COVID-19, and in line with the Mexican government’s call to increase social distancing, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and all U.S. consulates in Mexico will suspend routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa services starting March 18 until further notice, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico said in a statement.
NPPC renewed its call for government help to prevent a severe labor shortage from becoming a crisis.
“Mexico is a very important source of labor for U.S. hog farmers and packing plants,” NPPC said in a release.
A.V. Roth, NPPC president, emphasized that U.S. pig farms and pork plants are not in crisis today. But he’s very concerned about the recent announcement regarding consulates in Mexico and the impact this could have on operations in the pork industry.
“Hog farmers and others in the pork industry are doing their part to ensure American kitchens are well-stocked,” said Roth, a pork producer from Wauzeka, Wisc., in the release.
The pork industry operates year-round and uses the H-2A visa program for specialized work, but NPPC pointed out that the industry cannot use the program for most labor needs because of its seasonal limitation. Hog farmers are major users of the TN visa program, which taps professional workers from Mexico.
In addition to workforce concerns, NPPC reiterated that U.S. pork producers need additional support, including clarity from the U.S. Department of Transportation that farms are part of the critical domestic infrastructure needed to produce the food that feeds America and the world.
“This clear designation ensures the uninterrupted supply of commercial feed and other production inputs to farms, as well as the transport of livestock from farm to market,” NPPC said...
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...