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Arkansas Delegation Joins Effort to Protect America’s Domestic Food Supply During Pandemic

Written by Press Release

March 19, 2020

WASHINGTON— U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westermanpressed the Trump administration to maintain access to vetted, temporary workers to help ensure America’s agriculture industry has the workforce it needs to continue producing our domestic food supply as our nation combats the novel coronavirus.

In a bipartisan, bicameral letter signed by more than 100 members of the House and Senate, 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 our nation’s temporary agriculture worker program.  

“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,” the members wrote.

“Food security is national security,” the members continued. “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 joined the letter led by Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Representative Richard Hudson (R-NC).

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, 

Original article source: https://www.boozman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2020/3/arkansas-delegation-joins-effort-to-protect-america-s-domestic-food-supply-during-pandemic | Article may or may not reflect the views of KLEK 102.5 FM or The Voice of Arkansas Minority Advocacy Council

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