March 19, 2020

Crapo Joins Bipartisan, Bicameral Effort to Help Protect Domestic Food Supply During Coronavirus Pandemic

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) joined a bipartisan, bicameral letter led by Senator Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) and Representative Richard Hudson (R-North Carolina), and signed by more than 100 members of Congress, urging President Trump and his Administration to maintain access to vetted, temporary workers to help ensure America’s agriculture industry has the workforce necessary to continue producing the country’s domestic food supply as the United States combats the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“Idaho food producers rely on more than 3,000 supplemental guest workers each year to get crops planted, harvested and transported to the marketplace,” said Crapo.  “Supporting Idaho farmers and ensuring they have the labor they need is a critical food security issue that must be addressed and I will continue to work with my colleagues and the Administration to ensure the timely and legal processing of seasonal worker visas as we all face this difficult time.”   

The members called on the Administration to remove a number of specific hurdles in order to ensure the timely processing of H-2A visa requests, which is the nation’s temporary agriculture worker program. 

“Food security is national security,” the members wrote.  “We believe suspending visa services that our farmers rely on will be detrimental to families across our nation trying to put food on the table.  We also believe that protocols should be in place as H-2A applications are processed to help protect public health in the United States should COVID-19 cases increase in Mexico or other participating countries.”

 

Read the letter below and click HERE for a copy of the letter including the full list of Senators and Representatives who signed the letter. 

 

Dear Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Wolf, and Secretary Scalia, 

We write to you today regarding the recent announcement from the U.S. Consulate in Mexico and other consulates that it will suspend routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa services effective March 18, 2020. We greatly appreciate the subsequent announcement that H-2A visa applications of returning H-2A workers will still be processed and your respective agency’s continued efforts to address and accommodate this evolving issue. Nonetheless, we remain concerned that our farmers will not have the labor they need to keep food on the shelves at grocery stores across the nation. 

We understand the importance of maintaining public health safety during this time and appreciate the Administration’s actions to minimize the impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  However, there are substantial national security concerns that will arise should our farmers not have the labor they need. 

Food security is national security. We believe suspending visa services that our farmers rely on will be detrimental to families across our nation trying to put food on the table. We also believe that protocols should be in place as H-2A applications are processed to help protect public health in the United States should COVID-19 cases increase in Mexico or other participating countries. With this in mind and during these truly challenging times, we respectfully ask you to: 

  • Use all existing available authorities to provide maximum flexibility to consulate staff in the processing of H-2A visa applicants, while implementing protocols to protect public health. 
  • Identify any current legal or logistical hurdles that may prevent your agencies from implementing additional flexibilities, such as developing a separate screening process or remote interviews, in processing H-2A visa applicants. 
  • Provide an estimation of any costs associated with implementing any of the aforementioned actions. 
  • Provide data on the number of H-2A petition beneficiaries nationwide and by state that are eligible for an interview waiver and will not be affected by these processing changes. 

Thank you again for your leadership as our nation continues to combat COVID-19. We look forward to working with you on ensuring food security for America. 

Sincerely,

  

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