Cheyenne, OK – Today, Congressman Frank Lucas (R-OK), Congressman Rick Crawford (R-AR), and Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX) penned a bipartisan letter with 45 House colleagues urging U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary David Pekoske to prioritize the nation’s agriculture supply chain when imposing travel restrictions. The letter comes after the White House issued President Joe Biden’s Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Non-Immigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease.
“We appreciate the Administration’s continued efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, but we ask that supply chain impacts remain top of mind during these discussions,” wrote the Members of Congress. “Without an exemption to the recently imposed travel restrictions, South African H-2A worker absences would have limited the ability of American farms to continue production of food, fuel, and fiber for our nation. We thank you for your flexibility and efforts to provide an exemption for South African H-2A workers in light of national interest.”
The Proclamation on the Suspension of Entry as Immigrants and Non-Immigrants of Certain Additional Persons Who Pose a Risk of Transmitting Coronavirus Disease limits the travel of noncitizens from several countries including many from countries whose citizens participate in the H-2A visa program.
“The H-2A visa program is vital to the economy and food security of America. From farmers in the South depending on these workers to help till their crop and man the lines of the food supply chain to producers out West who rely on the labor to harvest rows of farmland, H-2A workers are essential to America’s agriculture industry. COVID-19 brought to light both the strengthens and vulnerabilities of our food supply chain. While we continue our fight to eradicate the coronavirus from our communities, now is not the time to weaken our food supply chain, limiting the agriculture industry’s ability to feed, fuel, and clothe our fellow Americans,” said Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03). “While I appreciate the continued efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, I urge President Biden, Secretary Blinken, and Acting Secretary Pekoske to keep our nation’s food supply chain at the forefront of their thoughts when implementing any further travel restrictions.”
“Visa programs have always been of use to our farmers who need to staff up for planting and harvest seasons, but have less work for employees during the winter months. With spring right around the corner, we should be helping our farmers have a successful crop, rather than cutting their resources. I encourage President Biden and his administration to immediately examine ways to create exemptions for these workers, while ensuring that proper safety precautions surrounding COVID-19 are in place,” said Congressman Rick Crawford (AR-01).
“H-2A visa program is critical to our nation’s food security during this pandemic, providing food for the tables of millions of American families every day,” said Congressman Cuellar. “I commend the Biden administration in their efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, however, it must be a top priority to ensure farmers have consistent access to these H-2A workers to minimize disruptions to the supply chain. As a senior member of the Agricultural Subcommittee on Appropriations, I am committed to implementing common-sense policies that protects our food and agricultural supply chain while also combatting the global pandemic.”
Last night, the U.S. Department of State provided an exemption for certain South African H-2A workers from travel restrictions citing food and national security priorities.
The full letter can be read here and below: