September 30, 2016 9:01 AM
Elected officials in Georgia are working to see what they can do to prevent farmers from experiencing the travesty of a lack of seasonal workers because of over-regulation by the federal government.
Georgia’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Gary Black, joined Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue Thursday for a session with the Department of Labor. The three discussed the farm labor issues that tarnished crops across Georgia last spring.
“We are talking today about what we need to do now to ensure our farmers have the labor they need in the spring,” said Commissioner Black in a statement Thursday. “We are not here to point fingers, but instead to have a proactive and constructive conversation on how to avoid the missteps from last year and safeguard against it ever happening again.”
Three farmers also appeared to testify, joining the conversation to share how the federal H-2A programs created more problems and delays than ever in 2016.
The program has been a mechanism for farmers and ranchers to obtain legal, timely, and dependable workers during harvesting, but the program has been plagued with delays that set farms back several months. Georgia farmers lost millions of dollars in crops because of the Department of Labor’s failure to process applications.
“There is no debate on the fact that the H-2A program is our best option for harvesting our crops. We just hope to work with the Department of Labor to find ways to strengthen that program in the future,” said blueberry farmer Russ Goodman. “It is very important that they understand that we have a time-sensitive commodity and any amount of delay can have a huge impact on our bottom line.”