Impact of COVID-19 on Agriculture

Coronavirus Stalls New H-2A Visa Processing

Podcasts / Newsline March 24, 2020

Credit: OSU Special Collections & Archives/Commons 

A State Department decision to not process new H-2A visas means agriculture lacks access to new workers. Micheal Clements has more.

Clements: The U.S. State Department will not process new H-2A visas during the coronavirus crisis, leaving a need for farm labor. Farm Bureau member Chalmers Carr, a farmer from South Carolina, says the decision means farmers can’t have access to new H-2A workers.

Carr: Luckily for us, we’ve been in the H-2A program for 22 years now. So, everybody this year except for 15 out of our 727 are all returning workers. So, the impact on our operation, if it only remains to new workers, will not be that impactful.

Clements: However, If the issue is not resolved, Carr says there could be a production decline.

Carr: Last year, there was 205,000 H-2A workers that were entered into this county. This year, that number was projected somewhere north of 235,000. So, that already means 30,000 were going to be new workers. And then if you add on to that the percentage of workers that don’t return, we could have potentially 50,000 less H-2A workers coming into this county. The bottom line is if this isn’t corrected and this virus doesn’t go away, I am concerned that we will see less production than desired.

Clements: Carr says in the meantime, they are taking steps to help workers reduce their risk of getting COVID-19.

Carr: The first thing we’re doing is education and training. And on top of that, we have actually been providing supplies, especially disinfectants to do proper cleaning. The next thing is we’ve asked for some voluntary restrictions on their own end, no out of town travel unless absolutely necessary, visitors to a minimum. This is a day-to-day changing environment, so we’re just working with them. Luckily, they’ve been very helpful to make sure that they don’t get sick, they also don’t want to get anyone else sick either.

Clements: Micheal Clements, Washington.

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