Regulations clarified for farmers hiring foreign workers; Rep. Owens says issue should be 'top priority'
The U.S. Department of Labor has released a handbook for farmers who want to take advantage of the federal H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program, which allows hiring of seasonal foreign workers when domestic labor is unavailable.
Congressman Bill Owens says that he and his colleagues have worked to get the H-2A program to ease the administrative burden on family farms who use the program to secure seasonal labor.“Addressing the administrative hurdles associated with H-2A is a top priority for New York growers who rely on the program. A reliable source of labor is critical to the region’s family farms,” said Owens. “This handbook is a positive step by the Department of Labor to provide guidance on the program.”
The new employer handbook, which provides straightforward guidance on using the program, can be found on Owens’ website at http://owens.house.gov/UploadedFiles/H-2A_Employer_Handbook.pdf.
New York’s agriculture industry is a major driver of the economy, employing thousands in the region. It is estimated that each job in the agriculture industry supports up to three off-the-farm jobs. In New York, this means 59,000 agriculture jobs and over 150,000 related off-the-farm jobs depend on the H-2A visa program. These jobs are threatened when growers do not have reliable access to labor.
In July, Owens helped coordinate a meeting with New York apple growers and Deputy Secretary of Labor Seth Harris to address practical issues with the H-2A visa program. The Department of Labor’s release of the employer handbook is a tangible result of that meeting, Owens said.
President of the New York Apple Association Jim Allen said, “The NYS apple industry is greatly dependent on H-2A labor, and any effort to help growers work their way through the process is greatly appreciated. We specifically want to recognize and thank Congressman Bill Owens for the hard work and efforts of his office. Mr. Owens and his staff have been diligent in working with the DOL, DHS, and other congressional offices on behalf of all New York State apple growers.”
“The release of the H-2A employer handbook by the Department of Labor is a first step in dealing with the complicated H-2A process and the many questions that our members have about its application,” said Dean Norton, President of New York Farm Bureau. “While there is a lot more work to be done on this issue, this is an important acknowledgement of the concerns that have been expressed by growers across New York State. I would like to thank Congressman Owens for all of his work over the years on H-2A and for his assistance in working with us to encourage the Department of Labor to develop these guidelines.”