Farm groups are appealing to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to take steps to speed the approval of H-2A workers following his department’s suspension of regular visa processing services in Mexico because of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

“While we were pleased to hear the Administration announce they will be prioritizing interview waiver cases, the State Department’s own data suggests that such workers eligible for waivers may only comprise a portion of workers employers need this season as evidenced by approved petition beneficiaries,” the 13 organizations said in a letter to Pompeo.

The groups asked Pompeo to designate the processing of H- 2A applications and all other nonimmigrant visa applications involving agricultural workers as “essential” and to treat worker appointments as emergency visa services. H-2A applicants are required to submit to interviews as part of the screening process, and many applicants are expected to assist with planting season labor across the country. 

The letter notes that the Department of Homeland Security has designated the food and agriculture sector as “critical infrastructure.” 

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“The American people need a stable food supply to maintain healthy diets and strong immune systems, especially now during this national health crisis,” the letter said. “The failure to take necessary action to protect our food supply will result in bare shelves in grocery store produce aisles, not from panic buying, but as the result of the federal government directly causing a shortage of critical labor.”

The groups that signed the letter: American Farm Bureau Federation, AmericanHort, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, National Council of Agricultural Employers, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, National Farmers Union, National Milk Producers Federation, National Pork Producers Council, National Potato Council, United Fresh Produce Association, Western Growers Association, USAFarmers, and the U.S. Apple Association.

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