What is in this article?:
- Farms needing crucial migrant labor face daunting regulations
- Very important program
- Provide extended visas
For years, producers and state agriculture officials have warned that federal laws governing farm workers — often in a three-way tug-of-war between farms’ need for migrant workers in the field, security concerns in the wake of 9/11, and U.S. communities and states claiming heavy social/financial burdens imposed on them by illegal aliens numbering over 11 million — are heavy-handed and laden with unexpected consequences.
Very important program
“The H-2A program is very important,” said Gasperini. “Obviously, with mandatory E-Verify, more people want to look at it. But the H-2A program only brings in about 60,000 workers every year. Actually, it was less than 60,000 people last year.
“If we implement mandatory E-Verify across the nation, even if only 50 percent of our (migrant) workforce turns to be falsely documented — and we think it’s closer to 70 or 80 percent — we’d lose over 500,000 workers.”
H-2A is “difficult to use, difficult to get everything done in a timely fashion. It’s difficult for farmers to be assured they’ll have workers where and when they need them.
“If it’s hard to bring in 60,000 workers annually now, why would anyone believe the pipeline can be made big enough, fast enough? That system is going to serve American agriculture and bring in almost 500,000 people almost overnight?”
Gasperini was dismissive of legislators claiming the problem can be solved quickly by pushing the program into overdrive. “That doesn’t pass the red-face test. That’s why I like what (Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner) Mike Strain has been saying with regard to this.”
Beating the drum for sensible reform of migrant labor regulations, Strain says hiring legal migrant workers has become an unnecessarily expensive, time-consuming process. With other state departments of agriculture’s backing, Strain has called for streamlining the visa process and reducing red tape to a minimum.
“If we’re going to continue to rely upon foreign workers, then we need an expedited system to bring them into the country, keep track of them and to make sure they return home when their work visas have expired,” said Strain earlier this year.
“In Louisiana, we employ more than 3,000 H-2B workers. We have very few illegal workers in the state — we use legal migrant workers.
“But there are a number of problems in the system. One is the current electronic system makes it very difficult for our citizens to hire the people they need. That’s particularly true of the seafood industry — things like peeling crawfish, working with alligators and processing crab. Skilled migrant workers are also prevalent in the sugar industry.
“Normally, you must get approval for a worker every year — the same tedious process every year. And it’s very costly. You’re looking at $1,000 to $1,500 per worker to try and expedite the system. You must expedite because of all the typical delays.”