With Georgia Farmers Hurting, Delegation Asks Labor Department for Help

You may have seen the story by the AJC’s Aaron Gould Sheinin earlier this week describing the losses Georgia’s farmers are incurring because they can’t get the migrant workers they need to pick their crops, which for this time of year is blueberries. For one farmer, the loss is north of three quarter million dollars. Multiply that to account for others in the same boat, and you have a real burden for Georgia’s agriculture industry.

The problem appears to lie in a backlog at the U.S. Department of Labor, which processes the visas low skilled foreign workers need to enter the country.

Department of Labor data show only 90 percent of H-2A applications received in the second quarter of the federal government’s fiscal year were processed in a “timely” manner, meaning 30 days before the farmer says he or she needs the workers to arrive. That’s down from 99 percent in the first quarter.

More than 74,500 applications have been processed since the fiscal year began Oct. 1, including more than 6,000 from Georgia — the third-most in the country.

In 2015, the department processed 97 percent of nearly 140,000 applications on time.

The Georgia congressional delegation recently sent a letter to Labor Secretary Thomas Perez asking the the department expedite the unprocessed applications which is preventing the Peach State’s farmers from harvesting more than 20 types of fruits and vegetables. The delegation wrote,

It has come to our attention that the Department of Labor has accumulated a significant backlog of H-2A visa labor applications. This backlog has placed Georgia’s fruit and vegetable industry, as well as our state’s rural communities, in jeopardy. We ask that necessary steps be taken to expedite these applications so Georgia farmers can continue to provide their products to American consumers.

The letter was signed by Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, along with Representatives, Rick Allen, Sanford Bishop, Lynn Westmoreland, Hanj Johnson, Rob Woodall, Austin Scott, Jody Hice, Rick Allen, David Scott, and Austin Graves. The specialty crop industry has a $4.5 billion economic impact in Georgia.

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gcp
gcp

Very unfortunate that farmers using the legal immigration system should be harmed while farmers that employ illegals are not harmed or penalized. It’s also Vidalia onion time in S. Georgia.

blakeage80
blakeage80

Has anybody tried to float the idea of school breaks for peak harvest season of local crops? Offering some sort of extra credit for being employed by a local framer?

raconteuse
raconteuse

Under H-2A, does the employer have to prove that there are no residents who will take the job?

xdog
xdog

Even a little reading on the subject is informative. First, the problem isn’t limited to Georgia, or the southeast. From NY onions to Washington cherries, planters and shippers in more than 20 states are concerned. It’s also not a new problem, but one that’s exacerbated by demand–the number of H-2A workers used by U.S. growers has tripled in the past years. The government takes a hit for its “unwillingness to streamline the H-2A process and fully fund the programs that implement it”. The Department of Labor, for instance, relies on an “ancient” computer system and snail-mail instead of email. American… Read more »

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

Shifting from illegals to legals is stonewalled for causes depending on political agendas on both sides.

Last I checked the piecework pay yielded fair money but required hard/efficient work. Maybe nothing Georgians want to do with all the social programs available.
Time to consider the able bodied getting a check or food card or a bunch of our prisoners (if we could control the wardens).

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

These are the big agri-players that have/want to comply. Why bring in thousands more that will disappear ? There are plenty of illegals available. Find the conditions and terms to sign them up, crops picked, taxes paid, tracking in place and maybe with the right process the Don can’t send them home.

Sally Forth
Sally Forth

Salty, you hit on some good points that most people just don’t want to talk about. First, any resemblance between these giant corporate agribusinesses and a Georgia farmer are purely coincidental. The big money boys run around yelling, “The farmers, the farmers!! OMG, the farmers!” as a euphemism to get into the public trough –and to keep getting the feds to ignore existing immigration laws. Talk to the red-clay Georgians who live in the small towns of Onionville and other parts of South Georgia, listen to what a hard time they are having coping with all the H-2A’s who get… Read more »

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

Our Republican delegation prefers unintended consequences and plausible deniability to addressing the problem by registering the illegals we have.