Clements: Last week, the U.S. State Department announced a commitment to processing H-2A applications to ensure an agriculture workforce by expanding the interview waiver. AFBF Congressional Relations Director Allison Crittenden says this change expands the pool of available workers.
Crittenden: Typically, folks coming through the H-2A program would have to go into the Consulate for an interview. These workers don’t have to take that step in order to help the Consulate maintain their efforts to have social distancing. They’ve expanded this now to new workers, as well as returning workers, to visas that have expired in the last 48 months.
Clements: Agriculture is designated as a critical industry during the pandemic. Crittenden says these changes ensure a workforce for the nation’s food supply.
Crittenden: This is important for agriculture because it ensures that farmers and ranchers will have access to that critically important workforce. We are at a time when planting is getting started, some regions of the country are already harvesting, and this means that we will have access to our H-2A workforce pretty similar to how we would in a normal year.
Clements: Crittenden says farmers are focused on keeping their workforce healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Crittenden: Farmers are ensuring that workers know about all the CDC guidelines. They are providing extra sanitary equipment, taking steps to rearrange housing when possible for social distancing. Farmers are really taking steps to be proactive to prevent any spread of the coronavirus on their farms as well as making sure workers are educated about their own steps that they can take to ensure their own health.
Clements: Micheal Clements, Washington.