Citrus growers could face a crisis if the federal government doesn’t find a way to expedite guest worker permits now that it’s up and running again.
During the three-week shutdown, the office in Chicago that processes guest worker visas for the Labor Department was closed.
This could end up severely hurting citrus growers in Florida—as well as other fruit and vegetable harvesters—who rely on guest workers who come to the United States through the H2-A visa program.
Paul Meador of Everglades Harvesting and Hauling in Labelle said his orange business relies on 400 guest workers—who do the lion’s share of the work in his groves.
He said he simply doesn’t have enough domestic employees to harvest fruit before it spoils.
“Because of the delay, obviously everyone is in a crisis now, whether its oranges or vegetables, all of these commodities are perishable,” he said.
This week, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, asked federal agencies to figure out a way to speed up the H2-A process to avoid rotting crops and billions of dollars in possible loss to Florida’s economy.