Growers association supports ag labor changes

The Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association supports proposed rule changes to the H-2A temporary agricultural labor certification program.

The U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration and Wage and Hour Division published the proposed changes in July with an invitation for the public to comment by Sept. 24.

Groups representing growers and other sectors of the produce industry, including Western Growers and United Fresh, have come out in favor of proposed rules to streamline the process growers use to bring foreign, seasonal workers into the United States for the sole purpose of providing farm labor not available domestically.

Provisions include mandatory electronic filing of job orders and applications, permitting some post-certification modifications, allowing staggered entry of H2A workers, updates to how the adverse effect wage rate is determined, employer use of electronic domestic help-wanted advertising and other provisions.

In May, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue met with Colorado produce growers in Brighton to part to discuss challenges in securing qualified, legal labor for the short growing and harvest season in the state.

“This meeting was a good opportunity to discuss in detail the acute labor problems facing growers, and we were especially forceful about the changes needed to the H2A guest worker program to make the paperwork less burdensome and the program more flexible,” said Robert Sakata, president of the Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, which represents more than 250 members.

Sakata said the proposed rule changes don’t address all issues and the changes could be reversed if a new administration does not like them.

“CFVGA is urging Congress to pass legislation that fixes the currently broken seasonal guest worker program or we will continue to see more Colorado growers go out of business,” he said.