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Companies join forces for H-2A solution


Services will include recruitment, hiring, compliance and monitoring



By DAN WHEAT


Capital Press


An international business solutions company, ADP Inc., of Roseland, N.J., the Washington Farm Labor Association and five other businesses are putting together services that may increase use of the H-2A foreign guestworker visa program by West Coast farmers.


The group, headed by ADP, is offering recruitment, hiring, payroll and regulatory compliance services that will make it easier for farmers to use the cumbersome federal H-2A program with less risk and expense, said Jeff Ballew, national agribusiness leader at ADP.


ADP is one of the world's largest business solutions companies, with approximately 600,000 clients and more than $10 billion in revenue. It offers payroll, tax and benefits administration.


A lot of farmers, short of workers, shy away from H-2A program because of the expense and risk of government fines for noncompliance with regulations, Ballew said.


Since November 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor has required more than $7.2 million in back wages and fines from employers in more than a dozen cases from North Carolina, Georgia and Florida to California, Oregon and Hawaii, he said. Several of them were for noncompliance with H-2A regulations.


A Nevada grower, agreed in July to pay $2.4 million in back wages and a $500,000 penalty for H-2A violations, Ballew said.


"We're on a mission to change the industry with H-2A," he said. "We are far less expensive, remove more administrative burdens and we mitigate the major compliance exposures."


Overall savings for companies using ADP services for H-2A versus those on their own should be about 32 percent, Ballew said.


ADP and its partners will record H-2A workers' time at work through field computers provided to employers. ADP will handle payroll, taxes, monitor compliance with the Department of Labor and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement regulations and automatically send earnings to employees' homes in a foreign country if they want.


Depending on length of stay, H-2A workers may not fall under Obamacare but it appears growers will have to provide healthcare for other workers on the payroll for more than 60 days or pay fines, Ballew said.


ADP's business partners for its H-2A service are: T3 Technologies, an agriculture hardware and software company; Easy Metrics, a business intelligence and reporting service; Insight eTools, for earning statements; Moss Adams, agricultural accounting for H-2A income tax filings; CFO Selections, for accounting services backup when a client doesn't have the resources or bandwidth for ADP accounting services.


The Washington Farm Labor Association assists employers with applying to Labor for permission to hire H-2A workers and is licensed in Washington and Oregon for H-2A worker recruitment and hiring, said Kim Bresler, the association's assistant director.


The association is looking into getting licensed in California and is now able to recruit and hire workers for groups of small employers, she said.


Ballew will outline ADP H-2A services at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., Feb. 12-14, and at the Washington Farm Labor Association's Workforce Summit at the Holiday Inn Convention Center in Yakima, Wash., Feb. 20.






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