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Farmer worries H2A workers may come too late for harvest

Posted at 4:27 PM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 21:34:51-04

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Some in the farming industry are worried about migrant workers are having trouble entering the country to work contracted jobs having an impact on this year's harvest.

At Slate Farms, a group of H2A temporary agricultural workers helps with running the farm. At least one worker has been coming to the country for the past 20 years to work for more than half a year at a time.

"The next group was already supposed to be here. Right now, they're scheduled to cross the border Monday," said Al Slate, owner of the farm.

Slate said he's hired workers for years, and now that workers are having trouble getting in due to the COVID-19 shut down, he's looking into the local market to hire people. The labor and pay are not what many people are willing to work for.

"Typically we would have seven. That's taking care of everything on the farm including the strawberries and the greenhouses," said Slate.

Some of the strawberries are just about ready to pick. Slate wants to get the farm open for curbside pick up by April 24 or 25.

Slate said he's not the only farmer experiencing problems.

"Seems like everyone I've talked to has some type of problem. They will have part of their help here but not all of them," he said.

A representative with the Farm Bureau said they're not sure when migrant workers will start getting into the country more quickly.

The Department of Homeland Security and the USDA just loosened restrictions so workers already in the U.S. can switch employers to help farmers during their harvest. They're trying to keep the supply chain from being disrupted. However, it doesn't help with getting more hands in the states.

Slate just wants for the locals to support farmers.