Mar 18, 2020Ag coalition urges H-2A visa process be treated as emergency
The steering committee of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC), including the National Potato Council, on March 18 called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to recognize all H-2A as well as any other non-immigrant visa petition involving an agricultural worker visa consular processing functions as essential and direct U.S. Consulates to treat all agricultural worker appointments as emergency visa services.
The move came after the March 16 announcement by the Department of State’s decision to suspend regular visa processing at the embassy in Mexico City and all consulates in Mexico in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While USDA did clarify the State Department will be prioritizing workers eligible for the in-person interview waiver, the agency’s own data show that this process will only cover a portion of the workers needed to help produce this country’s food.
“We agree that governments and the private sector must take all necessary precautions to reduce further transmission of the virus in our communities, however those steps must be proportional and reasonable,” the groups write. “The Food and Agriculture Sector remains critical at this trying time and must be able to continue to provide sustenance.”
Action is especially critical at this time, as planting for many crops begins in a month. Many producers have applications pending or will soon file them and the next few months are typically the busiest time of year for visa interviews at embassies and consulates.
“The American people need a stable food supply to maintain healthy diets and strong immune systems, especially now during this national health crisis,” the letter concludes. “The failure to take necessary action to protect our food supply will result in bare shelves in grocery store produce aisles, not from panic buying, but as the result of the federal government directly causing a shortage of critical labor. We urge you and the President to not let that happen.”
The National Potato Council is among the organizations listed under the coalition.
A copy of the full letter can be found at www.agworkforcecoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/d4_LettertoSecretaryPompeoH2AVisaProcessing.pdf.
For more information on AWC, visit www.agworkforcecoalition.org.