Keeping your farm fully staffed might require looking well beyond your own backyard. In fact, it might mean stretching your feelers out across borders to find workers on foreign soil. Learning more about the H-2A and TN Visa programs is a place to start but there are two mistakes producers make that can create more headaches than necessary.
Mistake #1: Waiting too long
Aaron Bernard, an attorney with the Bernard Firm that specializes in immigration law, says one of the big issues he sees is farmers coming to his firm already on the brink of desperation. This is not a process you want to rush, Bernard warns. While it doesn’t take a nearly as long as some might think to go through the screening and hiring process of foreign workers, it’s still not an overnight event.
“One of the things people have to understand, especially on the H-2A program, there are rules,” Bernard says.
To avoid this pitfall, evaluate your operation and decide where the need truly lies. If you have more work than your current employees can handle, your turnover is too high or you’re just not finding the quality of worker you need you might want to consider a Visa program. In some cases, Bernard says, the availability just isn’t there, especially in the rural Midwest.
Mistake #2: Not follow (or knowing) the rules
Knowing the rules is half the battle, the other half is actually following them.
“They [producers] spend a lot of time getting the workers and once they get the workers they don’t necessarily feel the rules should apply after that, and they do apply,” Bernard says.
He emphasizes the importance of understanding the rules to avoid making mistakes.
“Most of my clients tend to follow the rules … if they know them,” he says. “As a lawyer, I think it’s our job to educate our clients.”
To keep this mistake from biting you in the backside, take the time to know and understand the rules. Also, make sure your representation fully understands the rules and is willing to educate you.
Listen to Aaron Bernard’s full commentary: