Ensuring an Adequate Workforce
Many industry businesses, especially growing and landscape operations, are struggling to find the labor they need to sustain and expand their businesses. Major demographic and lifestyle changes have shaped this reality. Seasonality and the very nature of the work are challenges. Manual labor positions are especially difficult to fill.
Though diligent employers fully comply with the law at time of hiring, foreign-born labor – much of it believed to be unauthorized – is a big part of the production labor force. The existing visa programs, H-2A (seasonal agricultural) and H-2B (seasonal non-agricultural) are important to the industry, but both programs are fraught with problems. There is no program for year-round jobs and workers.
AmericanHort is well positioned to lead on these issues. We co-chair the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform and the H-2B Workforce Coalition. We also chair the National Immigration Forum Action Fund board.
What We’re Doing Right Now:
While quietly laying groundwork for possible broader sensible immigration fixes in 2017, right now we’re hard at work defending the existing temporary visa programs, H-2A and H-2B. Especially important is the H-2B returning worker provision, which would allow law-abiding temporary workers to return next year without counting against the program cap. Congress enacted this policy for 2016, but must renew it for 2017.
It is crucial that we get Congress to include the H-2B returning worker provision in the omnibus spending bill that it will consider in December. If Congress fails to act, the landscape sector could easily be short 20,000 or more seasonal workers next year. This threatens not only landscape companies, but also growers and the whole supply chain.