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MFB helps tell story of H-2A challenges to statewide news audiences

“We try and recruit as many qualified workers as we can here before we bring people up on visas,” Katie Vargas of Joe Rasch Orchards told WOOD TV8 in Grand Rapids, adding that if they didn’t have the H-2A program for labor, “we wouldn’t have a farm.”
Date Posted: June 5, 2023

Michigan farmers are no stranger to the cost and logistical hurdles the H-2A program has experienced in recent years.

But many people outside the state’s ag industry aren’t aware of the importance of the program to the state’s farm labor force, and the extent of the pressures farmers face as wages and H-2A application fees continue to skyrocket.

Michigan Farm Bureau recently helped statewide news audiences get up to speed on the issue in a feature for Crain’s Grand Rapids Business and an marquee story with WOOD TV8, in addition to interviews with multiple ag media outlets.

“The reason why farmers today are using the H-2A program is because we don’t have a domestic supply of labor like we’ve had in the past,” MFB National Legislative Counsel John Kran told Crain’s Grand Rapids Business.

“This is really the only other option they have to get workers. H-2A is cumbersome, it’s clunky, it’s expensive. You’ve got three federal agencies and one state agency involved in the process and it takes a lot of pre-planning. It’s not the ideal option, it’s just what we have today.”

Ottawa County Farm Bureau member Luke DeHaan manages Crossroads Blueberry Farm, where they utilize about 450 temporary workers during each season’s harvest. As DeHaan explained to Crain’s Grand Rapids Business, with the state’s Adverse Effect Wage Rate increasing by nearly $2 an hour this year, his farm will face an additional $900 of labor costs per hour.

Katie Vargas of Joe Rasch Orchards shared similar concerns in her interview with WOOD TV8.

“We try and recruit as many qualified workers as we can here before we bring people up on visas,” Vargas said, adding that the orchard has only had one person they’ve been able to hire domestically in the past five years.

“If we didn’t have this program, we wouldn’t have a farm. We have a very, very time sensitive product. It can go from one day to the next of being something that we can sell and something that we can’t.”

Click the links below to read more:
WOOD TV8: ‘A lot all at once’: Farmers oppose visa fee increase

Crain’s Grand Rapids Business: Soaring labor costs push West Michigan’s fruit growers to the brink

Brownfield Ag News: Michigan Congressional Leaders Speaking Out On H-2A Fees

Potato Grower Online: Michigan Lawmakers Come Together To Fight Proposed H-2A Filing Fees

Industry Update: Michigan Congressional Leaders Talk About Added H-2A Taxes