American farmers are bracing for major delays in the arrival of workers through the H-2A visa program after U.S. officials announced late Monday that the embassy in Mexico City and all U.S. consulates in Mexico will close, effective March 18, due to health and safety concerns caused by the Covid-19 global pandemic, according to FERN’s latest story.
Officials at the embassy did not say when the facilities might reopen. The H-2A program brings some 200,000 foreign workers to U.S. farms each year.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation’s largest farmer advocacy group, told FERN that it fears this will dramatically reduce the number of H-2A workers, which could lead to food shortages and economic hardship for U.S. farmers. Farm Bureau officials also said they had been told by the U.S. consulate in Monterrey, Mexico — the busiest in the country for H-2A visas — that “returning H-2A workers” will be given priority and that there will be few interviews for new workers.
The Farm Bureau pointed out that last year in the second quarter, from April to June, 87,000 H-2A jobs were certified, making it the busiest time of year.
“The decision to halt visa application processing in Mexico will restrict the number of immigrant workers being allowed to enter the country. Under the new restrictions, American farmers will not have access to all of the skilled immigrant labor needed at a critical time in the planting season. This threatens our ability to put food on Americans’ tables,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.