Good Fruit Grower

May 1

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Page 28 of 47 Good Fruit Grower MAY 1, 2015 29 F or growers facing a worker shortage, the federal H-2A pro- gram is certainly a headache, but with careful planning and execution the program can be incredibly useful, growers were told at an industry conference. Those who gathered at the Washington Growers League annual meeting heard many reasons why the H-2A program is a pain—exacting paperwork, costs, burdensome rules, and a bewildering process. No one would call it lovable. But since it's the only program for temporary employment of foreign nationals in agri- culture, growers might as well do their best with the system. The audience in January in Yakima, Washington, heard from one grower and from consultants with MasLabor, located in Lovingston, Virginia, who call them- selves the leading provider of services to navigate the system. A Washington State Department of Agriculture offi cial also said his agency wants growers to succeed with H-2A. Troy Frostad of Mt. Adams Orchards in White Salmon, Washington, says the system is worth the trouble if a grower takes care setting up the program, defi n- ing work schedules, and looking for workers who have experience with tree fruit. Frostad urged growers to start small, expect that some workers won't work out, but in time good workers will return year after year. Also speaking about H-2A at the meet- ing was Ignacio Marquez, community liason with the Washington Department of Agriculture, who stressed his agency's willingness to assist growers with the H-2A process. "It's cumbersome and at times makes no sense, but the law is the law," Marquez said. "So how do you help people understand it and best use it?" Frostad said he got a crash course in H-2A. Some years ago, he said his boss announced that their farm had a big problem with labor. Go "fi gure out H-2A," Frostad was told. "It's not an easy program to follow," says Frostad. "You can't go halfway. You have to make a commitment that you are in the program or not." Libby Whitley Fulton and Dave Fulton, owners of MasLabor, said their expertise derives from helping growers in 20 differ- ent states for more than 20 years. H-2A is showing huge growth, Dave Fulton said. The regulatory environment had become more supportive for farmers. But even so, the managers of a farm have to recognize the obligations around H-2A Get ready for ONLINE Visit the Washington Farm Labor Association at www.wa� Visit MasLabor at H-2A has its faults, but it's not about to go away. by O. Casey Corr PAPERWORK TJ MULLINAX/GOOD FRUIT GROWER Housing is a significant expense for growers using the H-2A program. Continued on Page 31

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