( File photo )

UPDATED: The U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration has issued a final rule that will allow agricultural employers to advertise for domestic workers online rather than in a newspaper before they turn to foreign guest workers.

The final rule will be effective on Oct.21, according to the agency.

The improved labor market test will assess whether qualified American workers are available to fill temporary agricultural jobs by advertising all H-2A job opportunities on SeasonalJobs.dol.gov, according to a news release. SeasonalJobs.dol.gov is an expanded and improved version of the Department’s existing electronic job registry, according to the release.

The release said that in addition to making it easier for Americans to find and fill open jobs, the final rule will reduce regulatory burdens like the requirement that all employers advertise in a print newspaper of general circulation in the area of intended employment as the method of recruitment.

More information about the proposed rule is available at the Office of Foreign Labor Certification’s (OFLC’s) website at www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov.

In addition, the Department of Labor’s Office of Foreign Labor Certification announced updates to the pertinent H-2A forms and online filing process for the H-2A temporary agricultural program.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue welcomed the actions.

“Both of these actions by DOL are critical changes the Administration is making to improve the H-2A application process,” Perdue said in a statement. “President Trump is committed to ensuring our farmers and producers have access to a stable, legal agricultural workforce. By streamlining these processes, DOL is bringing the H-2A process into the 21st Century allowing farmers to be able to better and cost-effectively advertise for workers they need and fill out the required forms faster and more efficiently because no one should have to hire a lawyer to hire a farm worker. I commend President Trump for his continued support of America’s farmers, ranchers, and producers.” 

The National Council of Agricultural Employers applauded the rule.

“The publication today of the long-awaited new rules on advertising are welcome.  Now, for the first time since the invention of the internet, farmers and ranchers will be allowed to use it under the H-2A program to recruit U.S. workers into good-paying agricultural jobs,” Michael Marsh, president and CEO of NCAE, said in the release. 

Marsh said in the release that potential workers look for work on their smartphones instead of at the corner newsstand.  

The United Fresh Produce Association submitted comments about the proposed changes, saying they cut red tape are designed to ensure wage requirements better reflect the work responsibilities of employees.

“As the produce industry relies more and more on this program to meet our workforce needs, it is vital that the regulations governing the program reflect the employment challenges the produce industry faces in the 21st century,” according to the release.

John Hollay, senior director of government relations and public policy for United Fresh, said the association is grateful for the Trump administration’s efforts to modernize the H-2A program.

“While it remains our top priority to pass legislation that will further reform the H-2A program, these regulatory changes are an important first step to ensure that fresh produce growers have access to a legal, stable workforce that will meet their needs and provide consumers with access to the fresh fruits and vegetables they desire,” Hollay said in the release.

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