US Restricts Visas for Farmworkers, Raising Concerns About Food Supply

"This could have a very serious impact on the flow of fresh fruits and vegetables to American stores," the head of a farmers group said

Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images

To reduce coronavirus transmission, the federal government has stopped conducting visa interviews for temporary farmworkers from Mexico who want to work in the United States — a move that could disrupt America's supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, industry groups say.

The temporary visa program for farmworkers, known as H-2A, is not entirely halted, NBC News reports. Guest workers from Mexico who previously came to the U.S. under the program can be granted interview waivers and allowed to return if their visas expired within the past 12 months. But federal officials told growers that they would stop processing H-2A visa applications from new workers, according to USA Farmers, a group representing H-2A employers, and the Western Growers Association, which represents growers in states including California and Arizona.

A growing number of U.S. farms are relying on H-2A workers as the rural workforce has aged and immigration enforcement has ramped up. In fiscal year 2019, the Labor Department certified over 250,000 positions for temporary foreign farmworkers through the H-2A program, according to federal data. The vast majority come from Mexico.

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