H-2A Proposed Changes Considered Detrimental to Farmers

Proposed changes to the H-2A Visa program, from the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security, could make life much more challenging for growers across the country.

Kate Tynan, Senior Vice President at the Northwest Horticultural Council, says workers deserve protection, but these proposals would really cost growers.

“I’ve been working on these issues for going on 20 years now, and the bias within these proposed rules is the worst I’ve ever seen against growers. It just really makes the assumption that all growers are bad actors, which clearly is not the case.” 

But Tynan says that doesn’t mean everyone is perfect.

“Just look at the small number of significant H-2A violations that you see. I mean, we absolutely believe that violators of the program should be penalized. That being said, taking significant steps such as denying access to the program or debarring an employer from the program for a significant period of time, you know, those really don’t match up with the supposed violations or the problems the growers have supposedly taken.” 

Tynan says violations of these proposed rules would discontinue employment services to a grower.

“Which is a minimum of a 20-day process to actually petition to regain access to those programs. So, if that happens at the wrong time of year, that threatens access for the grower. And they take it a step further and also apply this to agents. So even if the grower themselves hasn’t done anything wrong, they might not be able to fulfill their commitments to the H-2A program because of something that another entity did.” 

So, Tynan says they’re working on it.

 “The Northwest Horticultural Council submitted significant comments on both of these rules. We’re working with folks throughout the country who share many of these concerns. There’s been a number of conversations with attorneys to see whether there might be any action along those lines once a final rule is proposed. We’re also talking with our members of Congress to just try to get across the message that the methods that are being proposed within these two rules could have significant implications for growers throughout their districts and are hoping maybe they’ll be able to also help push back against these two agencies.” 

Asked if she thought anyone was listening, Tyson says, in Congress, yes, but within the administration, not so much.