(USA Features) The agriculture industry is warning that visa restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak on farm workers could lead to food shortages as production slips.
“If the policy holds, we will have some very serious shortages of labor,” David Puglia, president of the Western Growers Association, which represents farmers in Arizona, California, Colorado, and New Mexico, told the Washington Examiner.
He added that the severity of the shortages would depend on the region and the commodity.
Asked if the labor problem could lead to shortages of food on store shelves, he said, “That’s possible.”
“It would be very difficult at this late stage to close all of those labor gaps because this is all happening unplanned. We can’t flip things around that quickly,” he added.
Last week the Department of Homeland Security stopped processing new applications under the H-2A program, which provides visas for temporary farm workers.
Returning workers can get their visas renewed if they received that last authorization within the past year.
“More than 77,000 H-2A visas were certified in March and April last year, about one-third of all recipients, according to the Labor Department,” the Washington Examiner reported.
“We’ve had a chronic labor shortage for over a decade,” Puglia said. “That has increased reliance on the H-2A visa program.”