U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue Thursday announced a partnership between the the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to identify foreign and domestic workers who may be eligible to fill critical agricultural jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The move was made in response to travel restrictions and visa processing limitations impacting H-2A guest workers.
“Ensuring minimal disruption for our agricultural workforce during these uncertain times is a top priority for this administration,” Perdue said. “President Trump knows that these workers are critical to maintaining our food supply and our farmers and ranchers are counting on their ability to work. We will continue to work to make sure our supply chain is impacted as minimally as possible.”
Alabama Farmers Federation National Affairs Director Mitt Walker contacted Alabama Congressional delegation offices Wednesday about the potential impact of COVID-19 on farm labor and other challenges.
“I would also ask that as any relief for agriculture is considered, let’s make sure that relief makes it to the farmer and doesn’t just help processors, packers and other agribusinesses,” Walker said. “While they will likely need assistance as well, we ask that the farmers not be forgotten. Commodity markets were already at low points prior to this outbreak and will be driven lower and the need for federal assistance will increase dramatically.”
USDA and DOL have identified nearly 20,000 H-2A and H-2B certified positions that have expiring contracts in the coming weeks. There will be workers leaving these positions who could be available to transfer to a different employer’s labor certification. For more information about these positions, visit www.farmers.gov/manage/h2a.