U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue is praising proposed rulemaking by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), which could help farmers advertise job openings to domestic workers as required under the H-2A visa program.
Bob Boehm, manager of Great Lakes Ag Labor Services, LLC (GLALS) said the DOL proposal is a positive move in the right direction. GLALS was started under the Farm Bureau Family of Companies four years ago to assist farmers with securing workers through the H-2A Seasonal Guest Worker program.The proposed DOL rulemaking would allow employers seeking to hire temporary workers to post the employment opportunities online, rather than solely in expensive newspapers advertisements reaching a very limited audience, as currently mandated by DOL regulations.
According to Boehm, the cost for print ads under the current rules has averaged nearly $700.00 per farm in Michigan. In addition to the cost saving, he hopes it will expedite and improve overall effectiveness of domestic worker recruitment.
“Through our 4 years of operation and over $75,000 spent on mandatory print advertisements covering nearly 5,000 jobs openings, we cannot document one instance where a domestic applicant contacted us based on the print ad placements,” Boehm said. “Hopefully, DOL will continue to implement additional administrative reforms and development of on-line resources for the H-2A program, including applications and paperwork processing.”
According to USDA’s Perdue, that might just happen, saying the DOL is making good on promised H-2A regulatory reforms, as promised in May under a joint statement of the Secretaries of Agriculture, Labor, State, and Homeland Security.
“When I travel around the country, one of the biggest concerns farmers raise is the shortage of legal farm labor,” Perdue said. “Our farmers and ranchers are the most productive in the world, and they want to obey immigration law. Where American workers are not available, farmers turn to the H-2A program that is overly bureaucratic and cost prohibitive.”
Perdue said regulatory reform efforts proposed by DOL is one way to modernize H-2A to reach more American workers, while providing relief to farmers from one of the high costs of the program.
“It’s good to see the federal government using 21st Century technology, rather than being limited to placing notices in the want ads,” Perdue said. “H-2A reforms can chip around the edges of the labor shortage problem, but it will take action from Congress to address it fully.”
Perdue applauded DOL Secretary Acosta and urged members of Congress to redouble their efforts to help farmers, “find the workers they need to continue to feed, fuel, and clothe the United States and the world.”