United Fresh Produce Association, Western Growers Association, and Produce Marketing Association Applaud Decision for Increased Processing of H-2A Visa Holders and H-2B Employees
UNITED STATES - The produce industry has felt the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) all throughout the supply chain. With government restrictions implemented, workers in the agricultural field are facing a roadblock to bring fresh produce to stores. Secretary Mike Pompeo, Secretary Sonny Perdue, and others on Capitol Hill have acknowledged the importance produce plays in maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and has helped increase the process of H-2A visa holders and H-2B employees through consulates around the world.
“United Fresh members play an essential role in ensuring the safety of the nation and the world’s food security,” Tom Stenzel, President and CEO of United Fresh, stated in a press release. “We are grateful for the administration’s recognition of our part in keeping food moving from farm to table. We will continue to monitor the implementation and application of these revised regulations and ensure that the fresh fruit and vegetable industry has access to the workers that keep our food economy going during these uncertain times.”
United Fresh noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on behalf of the federal government, released updated guidance for both workers and employers who utilize the H-2A and H-2B visa programs. According to a press release, this is a direct result of United Fresh’s actions to ensure that all foreign workers in agriculture are recognized as vital and essential to our nation’s food supply.
Western Growers’ President and CEO Dave Puglia echoes Stenzel’s sentiments.
“Western Growers applauds Secretary Pompeo and the professionals of the U.S. State Department for taking a practical approach to meeting the critical workforce needs of American farmers while protecting the health and safety of State Department personnel,” Puglia said in a statement. “The steps taken by Secretary Pompeo eases the flow of guest workers at a time when our farmers are redoubling their efforts to provide our nation with safe, healthy, abundant, and affordable food. We are grateful to Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Perdue, and all those in the Administration who listened to the needs of the agriculture community in the midst of our present crisis, and acted swiftly to implement this common-sense solution.”
Richard Owen, Vice President of Global Membership and Engagement for Produce Marketing Association, also announced his support of the recent change.
“The Produce Marketing Association is pleased to see that yesterday the State Department took additional steps to increase processing of H-2 visa holders through consulates around the world,” Owen commented in a statement. “With the expansion of interview waiver eligibility, the majority of H-2 processing can continue. This decision will ensure the flow of labor necessary for the produce industry to continue to provide fresh and healthy products to consumers.”
Details of the announcement by the USDA on behalf of the federal government including prioritization for agricultural workers attempting to enter the United States under an H-2A or H-2B visa can be found here in a Q&A and on the USDA website.
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