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February 15, 2010   Email to Friend 

Darryal Ray
(334) 613-4187
February 15, 2010

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Changes in the H-2A program for temporary agricultural work by non-immigrants will cause major problems for agricultural employees and make it more difficult to feed America, said American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

"The American Farm Bureau Federation is extremely disappointed at the changes to the H-2A program temporary worker program announced by the Labor Department," Stallman said in a statement issued Friday. "The new program will be the most difficult ever for agricultural employers to administer. It also comes at a critical time of economic uncertainty and undoes a number of improvements implemented by the department only a year ago."

The H-2A nonimmigrant visa classification applies to foreign workers coming to or already in the U.S. to perform agricultural work of a temporary or seasonal nature.

According to the rule which becomes effective March 15, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security may not approve an H-2A visa petition unless the Department of Labor, through its Employment and Training Administration, certifies that there are not sufficient U.S. workers qualified and available to perform the labor involved in the petition and that the employment of the foreign worker will not have an adverse effect on the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.

Despite record unemployment amid a fragile economy, Stallman said the supply of farm workers from domestic sources remains critically low.

"There continues to be a labor shortage in U.S. agriculture and agricultural employers need an efficient, affordable temporary worker program to help put food on Americans' tables," said Stallman. "Even with the slower economy, farm labor remains physically demanding, periodic, all-weather work and it is often impossible for farmers and ranchers to find the workers they need."

"It is the right policy of the United States to require that only those who are legally eligible to work in this country should be given U.S. jobs," Stallman added. "But since there haven't been, for several years, enough legal workers in the U.S. to meet the demand of U.S. agricultural employers, it is the responsibility of the administration and Congress to authorize a useful program that enables capable, dependable and willing employees to come to the U.S. temporarily to do the jobs that domestic workers don't' want."

During fiscal year 2009, employers filed 8,150 labor certification applications requesting 103,955 H-2A workers for temporary agricultural work. The Department of Labor certified 94 percent of the applications submitted for a total of 86,014 workers.

Stallman said the new H-2A rule will only "compound" existing labor shortages. "It is not the program needed by America's farmers and ranchers. By finalizing this rule the administration has failed U.S. agricultural employers. Its claims of needed worker protections as justification for the new rule are unfounded and an affront to America's farmers and ranchers."

To view a fact sheet, visit www.dol.gov/opa/media/press/eta. For more information, visit www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov.

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