Flyover States, Beautiful Scenery, and Feeding the World

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Leveraging Temporary Agriculture Workers

By William “Bill” Glazner, CPA, CITP

 

Kansas and other Midwest states are often dubbed as ‘flyover states’.  One reason for this is the sheer amount of agriculture production that happens here.  When you’re in an airplane over the Midwest, agriculture decorates the land like a colorful patchwork quilt.  If you’re flying over the Midwest in the spring and summer months, I highly recommend that you get a window seat!

Producing wheat, corn, soybeans, pork, beef, and more for the nation and world takes a lot of time and energy in the form of a skilled workforce.  Ask any farmer, and they’ll confirm the labor shortage that agribusinesses are facing.

Overcoming Labor Shortages in Flyover States

Many solutions can help bridge the gap in our workforce – technology, automation, robotics, and the H-2A Temporary Agriculture Workers visa, to name a few.  Many of our clients rely on temporary workers using this program to overcome their labor shortages during the busiest times of the year.

However, with any program comes with administrative burden.  The fines for not complying with the H-2A reporting requirements are quite large and non-compliance can trigger an audit.  If you’re exploring whether the H-2A Temporary Agriculture Workers visa is a fit for your agribusiness, below are a few things to consider.

  • Think ahead. The H-2A visa process is long, difficult, and comes with a large price tag.  You must start the process about ten weeks before the workers are needed.  Your contractual obligations are aplenty.  For example, employers are required to pay inbound and outbound transportation, housing, and meals for temporary workers.  If you’re in a situation where you know you’ll need some extra help, the H-2A Visa program could be a solution for you if you’re not in a time crunch.  The USDA’s website has tools available to help make the H-2A process easier.
  • Document, document, document. The Department of Labor (DOL) Wage and Hour Division is concerned about workers being unfairly exploited.  As a result, H-2A agriculture workers are highly regulated and closely monitored.  The DOL also frequently audits or inspects employers.  The Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA), has the right to revoke a temporary agriculture labor certification if you – the employer – substantially violate a material term or condition of the certification, if the application was fraudulent or misrepresented, or if you refuse to cooperate with the DOL on an investigation or audit.  The moral of the story here is: don’t break the rules.  The whole process is complex, and you may need some help along the way.  Click here to access the Employer Guide to Participation in the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program.
  • Locate the necessary resources. The next time you’re in an airplane over some of the Midwestern flyover states, stop for a moment and be glad a qualified pilot is flying the plane.  The H-2A visa program isn’t something you can go about alone.  The right team of qualified experts will be crucial to your success in using this program.
  • Look out the window for changes. To streamline the H-2A process, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue and the DOL proposed a rule to modernize and improve the program on July 15, 2019.  These proposals are currently in the public comment phase.

The H-2A Temporary Agriculture Workers visa can be a powerful tool to help with labor shortages.  Just as producing wheat, corn, soybeans, pork, beef, and more for the nation and world is a heavy burden, you don’t have to overcome labor shortages alone!

William “Bill” Glazner, CPA, CGMA, Partner, leads Adams, Brown, Beran & Ball, Chtd.’s Agriculture Industry niche. In addition to extensive research and analysis on emerging technologies in the Agriculture space, Bill has over 30 years of public accounting experience.  He consults with ABBB’s agriculture clients on a wide variety of strategic issues.  For more information, contact Bill.