Farm Worker Visas
I'm Lacy Gray with Washington Ag Today.
The crash in late July of the U.S. database for printing visas has created a huge backlog of visas waiting to be printed just weeks prior to apple and pear harvest time here in the state, thus causing serious concern that the already 15% labor shortage in Washington could worsen, creating dire consequences for producers right at harvest time. Washington Farm Labor Association is attempting to schedule 725 farm worker visas for the week of August 11, but The State Department is estimating there could be long delays for non-immigrant visas. WAFLA Director Dan Fazio has this update.
FAZIO: Right now the system is coming back slowly, but the State Department is warning us of delays, unless the visa application has priority. So the game for us right now is to make sure that H-2A workers, workers that are coming to pick the apple crop in Washington state, have that priority.
Fazio says that without any priority the delays are running two weeks.
FAZIO: And of course that's unacceptable for a farmer who needs workers - growers can't afford to have twenty busloads of people sitting in hotels in Tijuana, or some other consulate in southern Mexico. The workers can't afford it either. They need to work in order to feed their families and if they're not working in the U.S., they need to work in Mexico. Some of these workers are only here for ten weeks, but they make as much in one week in Washington as they do in three months at home.
WAFLA is asking that all farmers, not just farmers who use the H-2A program, call their Congressman and ask them to contact the State Department in order to guarantee that H-2A workers get a priority for their visas when they show up at the consulate next week.
For more information visit WAFLA's website at www.wafla.org.
That's Washington Ag Today.
I'm Lacy Gray on the Ag Information Network.