Ag producers welcomed the news last week that South African farm workers may obtain an exemption from U.S. COVID travel bans. These workers have become an essential tool to relieve severe farm labor shortages in the Great Plains.
Last Thursday, the U.S. State Department issued a clarification on its ban on non-citizens entering the United States from South Africa that H-2A workers can obtain an exemption from the U.S. travel ban taking effect last Saturday. A Biden administration proclamation suspended travel from several countries due to COVID-19 concerns. The State Department clarified that agriculture workers entering the U.S. qualify for the national interest exception on a case-by-case basis, but not a guarantee.
The American Farm Bureau Federation recently sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken requesting an exemption for South African farm labor.
“We appreciate the swift action by the State Department to address a critical need for American agriculture,” says AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Farmworkers from South Africa bring a valuable and unique skill set to the farms where they work. America’s farmers rely on the H-2A program to provide a robust workforce, and we are committed to ensuring their safety while continuing to provide healthy, affordable food for American families.”
President Biden’s proclamation allows non-citizens to be exempt from the ban if their arrival is in the national interest.
Northern Plains Potato Growers Association