USDA, Labor Department plan would allow guestworkers to shift jobs

To aid farmers worried about an imminent labor shortage, two federal departments said on Thursday that they will help farms find foreign and domestic workers who may be eligible to transfer from one agricultural employer to another. The USDA and the Labor Department said they had identified nearly 20,000 H-2A and H-2B certified positions that have expiring contracts in coming weeks.

Those positions could be a source of workers who would transfer to another employer’s labor certification, said the USDA. “Ensuring minimal disruption for our agricultural workforce during these uncertain times is a top priority for this administration,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. “We will continue to work to make sure our supply chain is impacted as minimally as possible.”

Early this week, FERN was first to report that U.S. farmers feared major delays in the arrival of H-2A guestworkers because of the closure of the U.S. embassy and consular offices in Mexico. The H-2A visa program brings 200,000 foreign workers to U.S. farms annually. The H-2B visa program allows businesses to fill temporary non-agricultural jobs.