GA Congressional delegation wants DOL to speed up work visas

Published: May. 6, 2016 at 2:00 PM EDT|Updated: May. 6, 2016 at 5:22 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WALB) - A group of heavy-weight Georgia leaders has sent a letter to the Department of Labor, asking the agency to get to work forthwith, on its backlog of 'H-2A' labor visa applications.

These applications were filed by Georgia farmers to allow foreign workers into the country. They say the workers need to get into Georgia fields and orchards "before irreparable damage occurs."

The bipartisan group includes Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue, along with Representatives "Buddy" Carter,  Sanford Bishop,  Lynn Westmoreland,  Hank Johnson, Rob Woodall, Austin Scott, Jody Hice, Rick Allen,  David Scott, and Tom Graves.

The Department of Labor has failed to approve H-2A visa applications submitted by Georgia farmers, leaving farmers across the state without sufficient labor. The specialty crop industry in Georgia relies heavily on the H-2A visa program to grow and harvest more than 20 different types of fruits and vegetables. Without labor through the H-2A visa program, the industry will be unable to operate at full capacity.

In a letter to United States Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, the delegation wrote, "It has come to our attention that the Department of Labor has accumulated a significant backlog of H-2A visa labor applications. This backlog has placed Georgia's fruit and vegetable industry, as well as our state's rural communities, in jeopardy. We ask that necessary steps be taken to expedite these applications so Georgia farmers can continue to provide their products to American consumers."

The specialty crop industry contributes $4.5 billion in total economic impact and provides over 31,000 jobs throughout the state. Specialty crops in Georgia include Vidalia onions, blueberries, and pecans.

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