FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Office of Communications
Georgia Agriculture Commissioner in Washington Over Labor Concerns
Commissioner of Agriculture Gary W. Black joined other agricultural leaders in Washington D.C. today for a press conference to discuss labor issues currently affecting Georgia farmers.
“It was nineteen years ago when I accompanied a group of Vidalia onion farmers to Washington because they were facing labor issues at that time.” said Commissioner Black. “The same problem we identified 19 years ago still exist today.”
Commissioner Black and Michigan Director of Agriculture Jamie Clover Adams joined American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall and producers to highlight the need for enhanced coordination to eliminate processing delays within the federal H-2A program. The H-2A program is a critically important tool for America’s farmers and ranchers who need timely, legal and dependable workers to harvest valuable crops which are seasonal in nature.
American Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall said that the Department of Labor is required to approve H-2A applications 30 days prior to when farmers need workers in the field, but that deadline is routinely missed.
“The backlog is about 30 days in the processing of H2A applications,” Duvall said. “Crops are not going to wait for the labor to get there. Crops will continue to mature and rot in the field if we do not get something done and done quickly.”
Bill Brim of Lewis Taylor Farms in Tifton, Georgia, said that he has used the cumbersome and arduous H-2A program since 1997 to pick the farm’s 6,000 acres of produce.
“We understand that USDA, U.S. Department of Labor and Homeland Security have their problems they deal with on a daily basis with as well, but they have a little bit of control over what they do,” said Brim. “We do not with our produce. It gets ready whether we want it to get ready or not so we have to pick our crops. Right now in Georgia you have blueberries coming in; you have squash and cucumbers, and we don’t have the labor to pick it. “
The audio of today’s Ag Labor press conference can be download at: https://www.hightail.com/download/ZWJVNHB3aFJoMlVUWThUQw.
About the GDA The Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) is the voice of the state’s agriculture community. The department's mission is to provide excellence in services and regulatory functions, to protect and promote agriculture and consumer interests, and to ensure an abundance of safe food and fiber for Georgia, America, and the world by using state-of-the-art technology and a professional workforce. For more information, visit www.agr.georgia.gov.