Agriculture Groups Urge Action on Farm Labor

Cindy Zimmerman

Agriculture organizations are urging immediate action on the evolving farm labor situation to avoid impacting the nation’s food supply during this critical time.

The Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC) called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to recognize all H-2A as well as any other non-immigrant visa petition involving an agricultural worker visa consular processing functions as essential and direct U.S. Consulates to treat all agricultural worker appointments as emergency visa services.

The move came after Monday’s announcement by the Department of State’s decision to suspend regular visa processing at the embassy in Mexico City and all consulates in Mexico in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While USDA did clarify the State Department will be prioritizing workers eligible for the in-person interview waiver, the agency’s own data show that this process will only cover a portion of the workers needed to help produce this country’s food.

“We agree that governments and the private sector must take all necessary precautions to reduce further transmission of the virus in our communities, however those steps must be proportional and reasonable,” the groups write. “The Food and Agriculture Sector remains critical at this trying time and must be able to continue to provide sustenance.”

AWC is comprised of more than a dozen agricultural organizations, including American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), National Farmers Union, National Pork Producers Council, National Milk Producers Federation and others.

AFBF held a press call Wednesday to discuss how coronavirus is impacting farmers and ranchers. On the call were AFBF President Zippy Duvall, Executive Vice President Dale Moore, Chief Economist John Newton, VP Public Affairs Paul Schlegel, and Congressional Relations Director Allison Crittenden.

AFBF on Coronavirus and agriculture (39:54)

Ag Groups, Audio, labor