Western Grower & Shipper 2018 11Nov-Dec

Need Boosts H-2A Filings

By Tim Linden H -2A certifications in California and Arizona are poised to reach a record high this year as growers access the U.S. Department of Labor program in an effort to address the acute labor shortage that plagues production agriculture. For the past decade, the Western Growers Legal Department has been helping those members traverse the bureaucratic maze to secure those workers. “Just through Q3 (Sept. 30) of this year, California has certified more than 16,000 positions,” said Jason Resnick, WG’s general counsel and vice president. “By the end of the year, we should be close to 20,000. In 2017, for the entire year, we certified 15,000.” Arizona has not seen a dramatic increase in year over year H-2A applications but it has moved up two spots in the ranking of states. Through the third quarter of this year, Arizona employers have secured 6,112 H-2A workers, which represents 3.2 percent

of the foreign ag workers approved in the United States, and puts Arizona in eighth place among the states. California’s activity for 2018 makes it the fifth highest user of the program following Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Washington. Resnick said the interest is fueled by need, but also because with experience it has become easier to use. “It has certainly gotten easier over time as we’ve gained extensive experience,” said Resnick. But he also noted that the Department of Labor has cut down on the paperwork requirements and added an online portal that makes it easier. However, he said that the U.S. Customs and Immigration Service still utilizes a paper application so the process has room for improvement, but it’s better than it was. “California has seen quite an increase in the last five years,” he said. “Five years ago we were not in the top five. I think it is going to continue to expand in California, but there are challenges.” He said agriculture continues to

advocate for more streamlining of the application process and for continued modernization including a switch to a total on-line application. “We’d like to see more electronic processing and direct communication with a point of contact to discuss issues,” Resnick said. “We’d also like to see some technical changes to allow for the staggering of the workers. It’s gotten easier but it is still a restrictive program with lots of processes and legal loopholes that need to be changed to make it more employer friendly.” One company that has joined the H-2A game in the past few years and gotten assistance from Western Growers is Talley Farms in Arroyo Grande, CA. “We started using it three or four years ago through a labor contractor and now this is our second

24   Western Grower & Shipper | www.wga.com   NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2018

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