Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Farm Labor and Red Tape

Immigration is a double edged sword.... we need labor in the US, a large number of Americans do not want to do the jobs in the agricultural industy,we have foreign labor that is willing to do the work need,yet we make it hard for them to do it legally. As a whole, we want people to enter this country legally, I get it! I want them to too! The trouble in the labor section of the farm and ranch industry it is next to impossible to find the quantity and quality of employees that are willing to work long days, an unpredictable schedule, and at times in unfavorable conditions. It is also hard to find individuals that have the care and concern, not to mention skills. So, why make it so hard to hire those that want to work? So what if they come from other countries!

For the past 12 years our farm has employed workers from the country of South Africa. They have come to work on our farm through the H2A program. For the most part this program has worked well, but not without a lot of effort. It takes quite a bit of time to complete the application, interview any local people that may have interest and foreign workers interested, arrange housing, get approval from the consulate etc. It also takes a lot of money. The H2A program requires the employer to pay transportation to the US, provide a minimum salary, transportation once here, and housing. There are also fees related to the application itself and agency expenses for assisting in making contact with potential employees.

In this short video, American Farm Bureau Federation President, Bob Stallman addresses Congress informing them of the need for a change.

This year, one of our perspective employees was denied his H2A Visa. The reason behind it was that he had been granted one for several years and that it was no longer temporary employment. Yes, he had been granted an H2A Visa for several years, but he spent that time working on a variety of different farms, not just ours. We were hoping that he'd be able to return because it means less time training in a new employee. It also means greater effeciency in terms of work completed, assimulation into the community and farm, and overall use of time and money. In addition, his return means being able to build skills beyond a base level within this employee for the betterment of himself, our farm, and places he works when he is in his native country of S. Africa. If we cannot hire people in the US to perform the tasks needed, why not allow him to come back, work hard, contribute both to the US and the South African economy, while contributing in a positive manner to an industry that strives each day to do more with less, leave things better than they were before, and maintian the most stable economic industry in the nation... agriculture. It makes me wonder if those in Washington, DC have a clue what is really needed and why. They need to know the diversity of labor needs and that the age of American entitlement has led us down the path where foreign labor is not a nicety, but a necessity.

So, let's push our representatives in Washington, DC hard to explore options for long-tern agriculture work visas. Ones that are not outrageously expensive or accompanied by excess layers of red tape in efforts to help promote quality employees, document who is in our country, and hopefully provide the employers and employees with a sense of security.

You can find your representative by visiting the House.gove website (click on link)and entering your zipcode. Don't be afraid. Your voice CAN make a difference!

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