MARK GILLESPIE/County New file photo
U.S. Rep. Kathy Hochul and New York State Senator Pat Gallivan met with area farmers at a roundtable meeting at York Town Hall in May.
House of Representatives
Feds offer online forms to farmers applying for guestworker visas
Congresswoman Kathy Hochul announced this week that the Dept. of Labor will begin accepting online applications for the H-2A temporary farm worker visas on Dec. 10.
When Rep. Hochul spoke to farmers in York last May, she said she was working with the Department of Labor to offer an online filing system. Specifically, Hochul wanted account data to be stored for future applications so that farmers do not submit “18 pounds of paperwork” every year they apply.
“It took some time to get this done because there was some bureaucratic slowdowns to overcome, but we didn’t give up,” she told The County News in an interview Friday. Hochul worked with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Deputy Secretary Seth Harris and Deputy Assistant Secretary Gerri Fiala to modernize the H-2A application process.
According to Hochul, the streamlined process will make it easier for farmers to hire legal migrant workers to “plant and harvest their crops, expand production and grow their businesses.”
The system itself will be unveiled later this year, and farmers with internet access will be able to get training in a series of online seminars.
“This new system will relieve an extra burden for New York’s busy farmers. It’ll be a great timesaver when so much other stress in their life — whether it’s frost, drought or army worms.”
Hochul has introduced bipartisan legislation with Rep. Richard Hanna (R-Syracuse) to expand the H-2A visa program to dairy farms that are prohibited from participating due to the 12-month, non-seasonal nature of the industry. Hochul says the program is needed to allow Western New York dairies to hire an expanded workforce to meet the demands of a new Greek yogurt plant in Batavia.
As information about the new Dept. of Labor H-2A filing system becomes available, farmers can learn more about it at Rep. Hochul’s website.