Federal government modernizes H-2A program for farmworkers, employers

File photo by Tom Rivers: These farmworkers pick cucumbers in August 2019 along Townline Road in Barre. This is the spot near the corner of Shelby, Barre, Albion and Ridgeway, just south of the 4-H Fairgrounds.

Staff Reports Posted 17 January 2021 at 11:09 am

The federal Department of Labor announced on Friday it will be modernizing the H-2A program, which allows farms and agriculture businesses to bring in temporary guest workers from other countries.

The DOL is bringing the program into the digital era, harnessing the power of the FLAG electronic filing system to share information with other federal agencies like the Department of Homeland Security while also sharing information with the State Workforce systems and domestic farmworkers, the department said.

“This final rule streamlining and modernizing the H-2A visa process will go a long way in ensuring American farmers have access to a stable and skilled workforce, all while removing unnecessary bureaucratic processes,” Sonny Perdue, secretary of the Department of Agriculture, said in a statement on Friday. “USDA’s goal is to help farmers navigate the complex H-2A program that is administered by Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department so hiring a farm worker is an easier process. These modernizations make the Federal government more responsive to our customers, ensuring American agriculture continues to lead the world for years to come.”

Perdue said there are also additional flexibilities to cut down on unnecessary burdens on the agricultural employers that use the program. These flexibilities include the ability to stagger the entry of workers into the country over a 120-day period and allowing agricultural employers the flexibility to file a single application for different dates of need instead of multiple applications.