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February 7, 2013

New Rules Could Hurt Agriculture and Industry

For more information on Newsline, contact: Kari Barbic, Media Specialist, American Farm Bureau Federation, karib@fb.org.

At a time when our economy is still recovering and many are still without work, you wouldn’t think the country would need temporary workers from foreign countries. But think again. Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr. Mike Strain says new rules will make getting those workers even harder, which will end up hurting the economy. AFBF’s Johnna Miller has that story.
Miller:When it comes to a job, most people want work that provides a steady, stable paycheck, not something that’s seasonal. That’s why some industries have to hire skilled foreign workers to do that work through what is called the H-2B program. Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Dr. Mike Strain says new rules for that program are a problem for his state’s economy.
Strain:Any American can get that job first, has first right at this these jobs. These are jobs we cannot fill on a seasonal basis. You’re seeing a number of businesses close because they cannot get H2B workers. Back home right now we’re having extreme difficulty getting people to work in the crawfish industry to peel crawfish. A number of companies are either talking about closing down or moving their operations to Mexico.
Miller:Strain says the process is already too cumbersome.
Strain:It’s becoming almost impossible to get these workers in. They’ve made the whole process extraordinarily difficult. You have to go through four different state and federal agencies. It’s very time consuming and quite costly. The average employer has to spend you know anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 just to go through the whole application process.
Miller:But he says proposed rule changes would make the situation even worse.
Strain:The average wage for an H2B worker is approximately around $8.60 to $8.90. This brings it almost up to $12. If you look at the cost to Louisiana, it will cost our employers another $15 to $20 million. This needs to be reasonable. It needs to be fair. Don’t make it punitive, because it is harming our economy not only in agriculture, but also in industry. It’s harming our economic base and it serves no purpose to make this difficult.
Miller:Johnna Miller, Washington.

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