14 May. 2017
KING CITY, UNITED STATES
About half of U.S. crop workers are living in the country illegally and more than two-thirds are foreign born, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Department of Labor's National Agriculture Workers' Survey. Many farmers say they cannot find U.S. citizens willing and able to do the strenuous jobs they need to fill. The one legal way to bring in seasonal foreign workers is a program known as H-2A, which many farmers complain is overly complex and costly. While use of the program has steadily increased over the past decade, it still accounts for only about 10 percent of the estimated 1.3 million farm workers in the country, according to government data. In California's Central Valley, Steve Scaroni, imports farm laborers from Mexico and Central America for growers using the H-2A program. While many farmers say the H-2A program is difficult to use, Scaroni has embraced it. But he, too, says there are problems. Employers who import workers with H-2A visas must provide free transportation to and from the United States as well as housing and food for workers once they arrive. Wage minimums are set by the government and are often higher than farmers are used to paying. Scaroni, whose company expects to bring in more than 4,000 workers this year on temporary agricultural visas, says he could find work for even more people if he had more places to house them. But affordable housing up to the standard required is difficult to find in California and adds to labor costs, he says. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson SEARCH "H-2A NICHOLSON" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. Matching text USA-IMMIGRATION/FARMERS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.