By Clint Thompson
The only source for labor that Southeast specialty crop producers have to choose from will not be running out of applicants any time soon.
Dan Bremer, with Agworks H2 LLC, discussed the H-2A program during the Southern Peanut Growers Conference last weekend. He believes farmers will always have labor options if they choose to pursue the H-2A program, as minimal domestic options exist.
“For the foreseeable future, I think there’s plenty. There’s still a lot of people in Mexico that don’t want to come up here illegally. They have family down there and don’t want to leave their family. But the economic opportunity down there is almost non-existent,” Bremer said. “They come up here and work and make good money, go back and spend that time at home and come back up here and work. All of that works very, very good. There have been people in the past that have said they’re running out of workers down there, but I’ve never had a problem. There’s plenty of workers who want to come.”
The H-2A program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs.
There are few options for specialty crop farmers who need a seasonal workforce. A domestic option almost doesn’t exist. H-2A is the only game in town, according to Veronica Nigh, economist with American Farm Bureau Federation. She said there was more than a 20% increase in the number of applications in the H-2A program and a 17% increase in the number of positions requested during the second quarter of this fiscal year compared to last year.
“They’re here to work. They’re not here to do anything but work. They come here and work. They do a good job. They get paid very, very well. We pay for their housing. We pay for their way up here. We pay their way back. We pay a premium price for that labor,” Bremer said.