ARA SUBMITS COMMENTS ON H-2A Process
Sep 24 2019
U.S. Department of Labor
Employment and Training Administration
Wage and Hour Division
200 Constitution Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20210
RE: Modernizing Recruitment Requirements for the Temporary Employment of H-2A Foreign Workers in the United States Docket# ETA-2018-0002
Dear Sir or Madam:
On behalf of the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA), I am writing to provide comments on the Department of Labor's proposed rule modernizing the H-2A visa process. The agriculture community is dependent on a sustainable workforce now more than ever. ARA appreciates the efforts to streamline the outdated visa process and create a more flexible program.
Statement of interest
ARA. is a not-for-profit trade association that represents America's agricultural retailers and distributors. ARA_ members provide goods and services to farmers and ranchers which include: fertilizer, crop protection chemicals, seed, crop scouting, soil testing, custom application of pesticides and fertilizers, and development of comprehensive nutrient management plans. Retail and distribution facilities are scattered throughout all 50 states and range in size from small family-held businesses or farmer cooperatives to large companies with multiple outlets.
The H-2A application process extends several burdens to employers making the program complicated at best and often unworkable. The agriculture industry is missing out on numerous opportunities because of labor shortages in addition to the program's complexities and limits. ARA applauds the Department of Labor's step towards addressing these shortfalls and creating a modem process that improves the program while maintaining protections for the United States' workforce.
Several of the burdens facing employers are addressed in the proposed rule. The modernizations in the proposed rule streamline the process and relieve some of the complexities that make the program difficult to navigate. ARA supports transitioning the process to an electronic format creating an up-to-date registry for domestic workers and eliminating the requirement of onerous newspaper ads.
We also applaud the proposed rule for the minor modifications to the adverse wage effect rate. The prevailing wage standards have long needed revision for agriculture employers to utilize in the modem-day workforce. These updates to the wage methodology in the proposed rule allow for agriculture employers to follow more practical standards set by the Department of Labor.
ARA would like to see the proposed rule go further to allow agricultural retailers to participate. Agricultural retail facilities range from small family-held businesses or farmer cooperatives to large companies with multiple locations. Although farmer cooperatives can utilize the program, privately owned agribusinesses cannot. These organizations provide the same functions, but the structure of their business is limiting some agricultural retailers from participating in the program. We recommend that all agribusinesses be eligible to participate in the program and revision of the definition of agriculture to include the distribution and application of farm supplies on agricultural commodities. Broadening the definition to include agricultural retailers allows vital members of the agriculture industry to access the program.
AILA. also recognizes the positive updates to the housing requirements in the proposed rule and the need for sufficient and safe housing. However, we encourage the Department of Labor to consider overlooked burdens for agricultural retailers providing rental or public accommodations for their workers.
Currently, employers are unable to relocate their workers to sites by housing them in public accommodations due to some of the requirements of inspections. The necessities of housing include outdated fixtures such as window screens which are not applicable for various public accommodations. Agricultural employers in Kansas, for example, are willing to house workers in nationally recognized hotel lodging. These accommodations offer several extra benefits and amenities for workers. Unfortunately, due to restrictions with the program, these options are not eligible for use. Therefore, ARA would like to see greater access to public lodging options for employers and expanded opportunity for workers.
The modernization of the recruitment process and improvements to the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Labor Certification program are long overdue. We appreciate the hard work and commitment to streamlining the process and creating a usable program while upholding protections for workers.
Thank you for your review and consideration of our comments.
Manager, Member Services & Public Policy