Every year, growers from coast-to-coast, large and small, report worker shortages. Increased enforcement measures, including I-9 audits, create further instability. The result has been uncertainty as to whether there will be sufficient and dependable labor to harvest the crop or expand operations.

In response to these labor uncertainties, more apple growers have turned to the H-2A agricultural guestworker program. The H-2A program is complicated, expensive and subject to delay, but the need is so great the number of H-2A workers has doubled in the past five years. That trend continues, much of it being driven by the apple industry. This increase has added to existing capacity problems at the Departments of Labor, State and Homeland Security and, consequently, workers continue to be delayed. For a perishable crop like apples, the delay of even a few days waiting on harvest workers can make the difference between a profit and a loss.

A stable, legal and reliable workforce is critical if we are to continue to have a vibrant, domestic apple industry. Mandatory E-Verify without broader reforms would have a devastating effect on the industry. Therefore, passing legislative reforms that address both the current and future flow of workers is the industry’s top priority.

Every farm worker engaged in high-value, labor intensive crop production sustains three or more local, off-farm (but agricultural dependent), year-round jobs. Losing our foreign-born workforce would have the same economic impact on these communities as factories closed and shipped overseas.

In March of 2021, the House passed the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act for the second time. The legislation was strongly supported by the apple industry and growers thank those who championed it and voted for it. USApple strongly urges the Senate to act.

USApple is very concerned with recent regulations proposed by the Labor Department. If enacted they would further increase the cost and administrative burdens of the H-2A program.