Farms.Gov website

USDA has added features on its website to help small farmers apply for H-2A-visa foreign guestworkers and to manage farm loans.

The H-2A portion includes information about the program and an interactive checklist tool with application requirements, fees, forms and a timeline built around a farmer’s hiring needs.

Michael Marsh, president and CEO of the National Council for Agricultural Employers, said the organization has been working for the measures for some time, but that they are not part of larger H-2A rule changes soon to be proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor.

“This is a small step, but every step helps. H-2A needs to be overhauled and technology is one tool in the process,” said Dan Fazio, director of the farm labor association WAFLA, the largest provider of H-2A workers in the Northwest.

The hiring of H-2A workers, for up to 10 months at a time, involves U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, U.S. Department of State and state workforce agencies. In a few months, USDA will collaborate further with DOL to release phase two of its H-2A help on that will streamline the process.

The website allows producers to login to view loan information, history and payments.

USDA announced the features April 3.

U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., said it is an example of the Trump administration fulfilling commitments to modernize the H-2A program. He said it’s in addition to the administration’s improvements of H-2A advertising requirements and implementing farm labor housing eligibility updates directed by Newhouse’s amendment to The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018.

Central Washington field reporter

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