COVID-19 and Farm Labor

Ernie NeffCOVID-19, Labor

farm labor
© Florida Department of Citrus

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is encouraging growers to ensure that the farm labor contractors with whom they work pledge to implement COVID-19 workplace safety guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

FDACS issued an addendum to be signed by farm labor contractors (see here) and a training acknowledgment form to be signed by employees (see here).

Spanish versions of the addendum and acknowledgment are available.

Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association (FFVA) recently urged that all growers and farm labor contractors sign the contract addendum, and have workers sign the training acknowledgment.

On a related labor front, the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFB) recently commented on H-2A worker activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. “When the U.S. government announced its decision to suspend visa processing in Mexico starting March 18 to combat the spread of the coronavirus, growers around the country immediately expressed concerns that the action could have a major impact on agriculture and our food supply down the road,” AFB stated. “The concern, of course, was due to the vital role that H-2A workers play in U.S. agriculture, especially in the fruit and vegetable sectors. While U.S. growers recruit skilled agricultural workers from around the world, more than 90 percent of H-2A workers come from Mexico, so worries that workers from Mexico would not be admitted were especially acute.”

“Despite the challenges of the coronavirus, farmers and ranchers continued to demand H-2A workers in record numbers in the third quarter,” AFB added. “The number of certified positions during the third quarter of 2020 was up 4 percent compared to the third quarter of 2019.” 

“The coronavirus certainly had the potential to completely upend the H-2A program,” AFB stated. “However, as a result of outreach by growers, grower organizations and elected officials, important flexibilities were quickly provided for the program. These flexibilities ensured that the program continued to play a vital role in U.S. agriculture, setting new records for third-quarter use.”

Source: FFVA and AFB

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