If the Department of Labor’s H-2A program is hard for growers to work with in normal times, it has been impossible the last couple of weeks.
Since the government shutdown Oct. 1, the processing of H-2A applications for growers in California, Arizona, Florida and other states has been put on hold.
This delay in processing the applications was caused by the furlough of “non-essential” employees at the Department of Labor H-2A processing center in Chicago.
The industry has tried to bend the ears of the Obama administration and members of Congress about the urgent need to resolve this crisis, but through mid-October there had been no progress putting those employees back on the job.
The government shutdown will be concluded shortly, we believe, but that won’t necessarily prevent delays in the arrival of H-2A workers in Yuma vegetable fields and Florida citrus groves.
Those workers are needed in November.
Given the simple truth that the seasons wait for no men or women, growers risk losing part of their harvest if the government cannot promptly process H-2A applications and guest workers are delayed.
That could hurt consumers with rising prices and possible fruit and vegetable shortages.
The Obama administration, with strong encouragement from industry allies in Congress, must put an urgent priority on processing H-2A applications when the government shutdown ends.
A stable food supply is essential.
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