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Florida growers worry government shutdown will impact harvest

While immigration reform appears to have stalled in the nation’s capital, employers throughout the nation are in need of workers. In the past we have written about that need as it pertains to technical workers. That is not the only field of work however in which employers are seeking employees.

In Florida, many agricultural employers and growers need workers to harvest crops. Because many of these employers struggle to find domestic workers to do this job, it is not uncommon for the employers to seek foreign temporary workers. To achieve this goal in accordance with United States immigration laws, this must be done via the H-2A visa program.

This process is not without its faults. It is expensive and often takes a lot of time. In addition, it is also quite complicated. An agricultural employer may end up with too many workers or not enough if the estimate they make when seeking H-2A visas is off. This past fall the process was made that much more complex when the shutdown of the federal government left applications unaddressed. The fear was that the delay in processing applications from Florida growers would result in insufficient employment when the fruit was ready to be harvested.

To try to keep the process moving, several groups comprised of lawmakers, the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association and agricultural groups, sought to have the processing of applications for H-2A visas declared “essential.” The foundation of this request is that the production of food is a priority in the U.S. Before a decision regarding that matter could be made, the shutdown ended.

How this year’s harvest will ultimately workout, remains to be seen. As this is their livelihood, understandably, some growers are concerned. It is likely that throughout this process many growers have been working with immigration lawyers in an effort to make the process run as smoothly as possible.

Source: Southeast Farm Press, “Government shutdown over, but Florida's fruit, produce harvest still threatened,” Nov. 11, 2013

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