COVID-19: Where can agricultural employers go to stay current on the infectious disease caused by novel coronavirus?
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to change daily and staying current on the latest changes for agricultural workers can be difficult.
Information on COVID-19, the infectious disease caused by novel coronavirus, changes daily. It has disrupted lives nationally and internationally. This will no doubt continue for at least the near future, creating a level of uncertainty for all of us. However, it is especially a concern for agricultural employers who hope to increase their seasonal labor force over the next couple of months. Significant portions of these seasonal workers are foreign nationals coming from Mexico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and other Central America and Caribbean countries. These workers are vital to the production, harvest and packing of U.S. fruit and vegetable crops. Many are coming into the U.S. through H-2A visas.
As of March 17, 2020:
- The Jamaican Consulate indicated it would not process H-2A visas until April.
- Guatemala is not allowing any of its citizens to travel outside the country.
- The U.S. Embassy in Mexico will continue processing H-2A requests but will modify the procedure to insure recommended social distancing and the U.S. Consulate will prioritize returning rather than newly applying H-2A workers.
- Presently, other countries have either restricted or stopped processing some types of visas.
Due to the needed caution surrounding COVID-19, no matter what country workers come from, the process will no doubt be slowed. Therefore, employers should prepare for a later arriving labor force and probably in smaller numbers.
Staying abreast of this rapidly changing situation could be difficult. To stay informed, check out the following websites.
General information on COVID-19:
- CDC – Coronavirus (COVID-19)
- Michigan.gov – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- The New York Times – The Coronavirus Outbreak
Information for agricultural employers on COVID-19:
- H-2A Visa Program from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
- Comprehensive and Updated FAQs For Employers on the COVID-19 Coronavirus from Fisher Phillips
- Covid-19 OPM Guidance from National Association of Agriculture Employees (NAAE)