U.S.: PMA welcomes flexibility in H-2A guest worker announcement - FreshFruitPortal.com

U.S.: PMA welcomes flexibility in H-2A guest worker announcement

The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) has welcomed the announcement from U.S. authorities regarding a temporary rule change to certain H-2A requirements.

On April 15, the Department of Homeland Security, with support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it was easing regulations for the guest worker visa program that's critical for U.S farmers.

"The change will help U.S. agricultural employers avoid disruptions in labor and protect the nation's food supply chain during this COVID-19 pandemic," said Richard Owen, vice president of global membership & engagement at the PMA.

"PMA is pleased to see the rule change, emphasizing that maintaining a lawful, agricultural labor force during the COVID-19 public health emergency is critical to ensuring our industry has the capacity to continue to safely provide healthy, fresh produce to U.S. consumers."

Here is a summary Owen provided of the key points in the announcement:

· An H-2A petitioner, such as a grower, with a valid temporary labor certification can begin employing certain foreign workers who are in H-2A status in the U.S. once United States Citizenship and Immigration Services receives the petition. H-2A workers looking to change employers must be in the US already. The net result is more immediate access to a pool of H-2A farm labor.

· H-2A workers are temporarily allowed to stay in the United States beyond the three-year maximum time limit.

The temporary rule is effective immediately once published in the Federal Register.

"The changes reflect the commitment from DHS and USDA to help U.S. agricultural employers have continued access to the essential labor force that will allow the fresh produce supply chain to continue to meet consumer demand," Owen said.

"We commend DHS and USDA for showing agility in creating this temporary change. PMA will continue to provide up to date information for the industry and our partners as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic."