Custom Harvesters, AFBF react to travel ban labor exception
Agriculture groups are applauding the State Department’s move to promptly allow foreign farm workers from South Africa into the U.S.
Ryan Haffner from Kansas is a board member for the U.S. Custom Harvesters and utilizes the H-2A program every year. “Other than Mexico, South Africa would be probably the next biggest country for ag workers, and in the custom harvesting business, the South Africans would probably be the largest group of people from a certain country.”
Haffner says like the dairy industry, he would like a year-round permanent labor solution, but he uses the H-2A and J1 internship programs now. He says farmers and harvesters bringing workers in from western Europe had problems last year and they will likely experience trouble again this year. “I have visas for several people there that were never able to go, and some crews that I’ve spoken with, you know their largest group of workers comes from there so it would be great to see that exempted. Quite a few people come from Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand.”
Haffner says not being able to get foreign workers into the U.S. would be devastating for both their businesses, the farmers they work for, and the food supply in general. He says the State Department’s quick action to allow more South African workers is a big relief.
American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall issued a statement saying he is also appreciative of the State Department’s quick action to look at foreign ag workers on a case-by-case basis under a national interest exemption. Food and agriculture workers have been deemed essential during the pandemic.
American Farm Bureau Federation estimates around five thousand workers from South Africa would have been blocked by President Biden’s latest executive order on COVID 19 travel restrictions.