Rochester, N.Y.- The U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor met with local growers and farm organizations in Rochester Monday to talk about improvements made to a federal program pivotal to a good harvest season.
Seth Harris came to town at Congresswoman Louise Slaughter’s invitation. He talked with local growers about their experiences using the H-2A agriculture guestworker program and ways to improve the program.
In recent years, growers complained the H-2A program was becoming increasingly cumbersome with much higher rates of denials and deficiencies being issued. Upstate growers also were upset about excessive time delays and paperwork burdens.
Congresswoman Slaughter's office says some improvements that have been made include:
· Making Better Use of the Internet. New York is one of the selected states to participate in a pilot e-mail program allowing the Department to communicate more efficiently with growers.
· Establishing a Web-Based Filing System. The Department of Labor is also working to develop a new web-based filing system for the H-2A program that will allow growers to check an application’s status electronically.
· Providing More Guidance Before Filing. The Department of Labor has developed "filing tips" based on actual problems encountered by growers.
· Frequent Communication with Growers. The Department of Labor held three “stakeholder” conference calls this past winter and will continue to seek input and advise from the grower community to discuss emerging issues to address before they turn into a larger problem
In a press release Monday, Dean Norton, the President of New York Farm Bureau said when there are delays or problems with the program; it can put farmers’ crops and their entire businesses at significant risk. “In addition, our farmers appreciate that department of labor is working in such a cooperative spirit to discuss the problems and find solutions for a smoother and more effective H2A program," said Norton.