Via USDA/Flickr

Farmers look to foreign labor, rely on record number of H-2A visas

Farmers across the U.S. have expressed concerns about what they say is a growing labor shortage. They say finding reliable workers has become difficult, particularly for hand-picked fruits and vegetables.

That has led some farmers to adjust their crop mix, planting crops harvested at different times so as to stagger their labor needs. It also has given rise to increased reliance on the H-2A visa program, which allows farmers to hire seasonal workers from other countries.

This year saw a record 240,000 of the visas granted, up 21 percent from last year.

The program requires employers to provide housing, travel and cover other fees, meaning the typical H-2A worker costs more than a domestic worker.

Still, despite an estimated 2.7 million agricultural workers in the U.S., fruit farmers in states including Missouri are increasingly relying on H-2A workers, bringing the laborers to their farms early in the season and keeping them until late fall.

Read more: KCUR

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