With a huge increase in applications to the H-2A guestworker program over the past few years an average processing time of 90 days, it’s critical for growers to submit their paperwork as early as possible, to avoid some of the delays we experienced last year in getting workers onto our farms. If you haven’t gotten started on your applications yet, now is the time to get moving. Here are some good guidelines to remember:
Review your farm’s work activities and rules, including related disciplinary policies (e.g., verbal warning, written warning, termination). Write them down; you’ll need them for your H-2A contract.
Create job descriptions for your H-2A workers. Be specific about the type of work and the physical requirements (e.g., bending, lifting, climbing a ladder, driving). Remember that, by law, your H-2A hires area allowed to work on only those tasks.
Determine whether you prefer to apply directly to the program, with or without the assistance of an agent, or hire a contractor to handle it. If you choose a contractor, clarify all responsibilities and fees up front, ask about compliance processes, and request references of previous customers, so you can make sure your money will be well spent.
Confirm that you can secure appropriate housing, including cooking facilities, if meals won’t be provided.
Create a plan for worker transportation, both to and from your farm at the start and end of the season, as well as daily transportation from worker housing to your farm and weekly trips to the grocery store. If you’re using your own van or car, make sure it’s up-to-date on maintenance and repairs.
For more considerations on the benefits and drawbacks of the H-2A guestworker program, read this overview from our neighbors at Community Involved in Supporting Agriculture.
And don’t start this season without checking out this downloadable PDF from Texas A&M on the difference between an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audit and a raid, and how you can be prepared for either.