Four Cabinet secretaries – Perdue (Agriculture), Acosta (Labor), Nielsen (Homeland Security) and Pompeo (State)—announced a new administrative initiative to streamline and improve the H-2A agricultural visa program. H-2A is the only labor safety net currently available to most agricultural employers. AmericanHort has been actively encouraging such an initiative since President Trump welcomed 15 farmers to the White House just over
one year ago.
“...Our Departments are working in coordination to propose streamlining, simplifying, and improving the H-2A temporary agricultural visa program – reducing cumbersome bureaucracy and ensuring adequate protections for U.S. workers,” the Cabinet secretaries’ statement said.
The announcement signals the initiation of a process that will take some time. AmericanHort is hopeful that program improvements will be in place by or before the 2020 growing season.
“H-2A is fast growing in its importance to nursery and greenhouse growers as labor challenges are only getting worse,” said Craig Regelbrugge, AmericanHort senior vice president for industry advocacy and research. “A reliable program is what Congress intended, so this is good news. If successful, the results of the initiative will help our members succeed and grow,” he added.
There are limits on what can be achieved administratively. “Some needed visa program and current workforce reforms can only be accomplished through statutory changes that are up to Congress,” Regelbrugge emphasized. “Still, quite a bit of good can come from the initiative that the Secretaries have just announced. In that light, it deserves the horticulture industry’s support and constructive engagement.”