“It’s a matter of either importing workers here for our fields and farms or importing our food.”
That’s Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue addressing the topic of labor shortages earlier this week in California. The Labor Department Monday announced plans to modernize a long-time guest worker agricultural labor program, the H-2A program.
“We’ve been working with the Department of Labor for over a year now trying to help the H-2A program become more workable. It’s been very onerous, very inflexible, and very difficult for these growers to comply with all the rules and regulations. You have to tell them exactly what day a worker was going to be needed. Fruit may be ready two weeks early or two weeks late and you’re left with people either not having work to do or hanging around waiting for something to happen.”
Perdue was also asked about the immigration raids President Trump ordered the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement office to conduct and the impact on agriculture.
“The deportation effort is not targeting people who were out here working honestly. It’s targeting criminals who already have a deportation order from a judge and that’s what this issue is all about.”
Separate from the Labor Department’s announcement on Monday, Arkansas Republican Rick Crawford has introduced legislation in the House that would transfer jurisdiction for agricultural guest workers from the Department of Labor to USDA. Crawford says USDA is “better equipped” to address the need for temporary workers.