Ag worker visas delayed
DENVER -- Computer problems were responsible for delays in approval of temporary visas for agricultural workers, one of the groups affected says. The American Sheep Industry Association says it's been told that technical difficulties with the Dep...
DENVER -- Computer problems were responsible for delays in approval of temporary visas for agricultural workers, one of the groups affected says.
The American Sheep Industry Association says it's been told that technical difficulties with the Department of Labor's computer system led to backlogs in certifying H-2A work visas. It's also been told the system is operating normally now.
Sheep farmers and ranchers are lambing and shearing, or soon will be, and some larger ranches rely on H-2A to provide at least part of the additional labor needed.
"We keep working to try to resolve the backlog, but are not having much luck," says Judy Malone, a spokeswoman for the Denver-based American Sheep Industry Association, which represents about 80,000 sheep producers nationwide.
"Many of our folks are still waiting for their visas," she says. "A few have been resolved. We will try to keep folks informed as things change."
Sheep producers say they submitted their applications for H-2A workers on time and in accordance with Department of Labor regulations.
H-2A work visas are for "temporary or seasonal agricultural work. Limited to citizens or nationals of designated countries, with limited exceptions, if determined to be in U.S. interest," according to information from the federal government.
U.S. employers who want to hire H-2A must show that there aren't enough U.S. workers able, willing, qualified and available to do the temporary work. They also must show that hiring H-2A workers won't hurt the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers in similar positions.
In 2014, 116,678 H-2A positions were certified nationally, a number that has risen steadily in recent years, according to a U.S. Department of Labor website.
North Carolina led the nation in 2014 with 15,135 certified H-2A positions, most of them involved with tobacco.
Upper Midwest states ranked in the middle nationally. North Dakota had 1,150 positions, Minnesota 978, South Dakota 656 and Montana 575.