Qualifying Work for H-2A Visas Beyond Planting, Pruning, and Harvesting

March 25, 2024

The H-2A visa program is a crucial lifeline for farmers needing seasonal labor. Traditionally, this program has been associated with planting, pruning, and harvesting crops. However, there are many lesser-known agricultural activities eligible for H-2A visas. Farms with varied operations can explore these options to harness the full potential of the H-2A program. 

Understanding the H-2A Visa Program

Introduced in 1986 as part of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), the H-2A visa program addressed critical labor shortages faced by the agricultural industry in the United States. The program's necessity stemmed from the seasonal nature of agricultural work, which often led to peaks in labor demand during planting, harvesting, and other crucial phases. Yet, domestic workers were often unavailable or unwilling to take on these jobs due to the temporary nature of the employment. Consequently, the H-2A program allowed farmers to hire foreign workers to fill these seasonal labor gaps, providing stability to agricultural operations.

Hundreds of thousands of workers now come to the United States through the H-2A program each year, reflecting the increasing reliance of the agricultural sector on foreign labor to meet its seasonal workforce needs. The program ensures stability for farmers and contributes to the sector's productivity and profitability by maximizing crop yields. 

Beyond Traditional Farming Activities


While planting, pruning, and harvesting are the cornerstone of the H-2A program, many other tasks qualify for H-2A visas. Let’s explore some of the most common examples: 

1. Handling Specialized Crops


The H-2A visa program recognizes the need for skilled labor to handle specialized crops beyond traditional fruits and vegetables. Delicate berries like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries require careful hand-picking techniques to preserve their quality during harvest, while labor-intensive crops such as asparagus demand precise manual cutting methods. 

Other specialized crops include grapes for wine production, tree fruits like peaches and apples, and exotic fruits such as mangoes and pineapples. Workers harvesting these crops play a vital role in ensuring produce quality and freshness, contributing to the agricultural industry's overall productivity and competitiveness in the market.

2. Assisting with Soil Management and Conservation


The H-2A visa program provides crucial support to farms needing assistance with soil management and conservation practices. Farms facing shortages of domestic workers skilled in soil testing, erosion control, and nutrient management can utilize this program to recruit foreign labor with the necessary expertise. 

By meeting program criteria, farms access skilled workers who ensure essential soil health practices are carried out effectively, enhancing overall productivity and sustainability. Compliance with environmental regulations requires adherence to federal, state, and local guidelines governing soil conservation and water quality. 

3. Tackling Pest Control and Integrated Pest Management (IPM)


Farms facing pest issues and needing skilled labor for pest control and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) can use the H-2A visa program. Pest control is crucial in agriculture as pests can cause significant crop damage and financial losses. IPM, which emphasizes eco-friendly pest control methods, is beneficial for farms aiming to reduce chemical pesticide use and adopt sustainable pest management practices. 

H-2A workers receive comprehensive training in pest identification, biology, monitoring techniques, and IPM principles. Certification requirements for H-2A workers vary by state and task but may include obtaining pesticide applicator licenses. Compliance ensures workers handle pesticides safely, minimizing environmental risks and meeting regulatory standards. Hiring H-2A workers for pest control and IPM provides farms with skilled labor to implement effective pest management strategies while promoting sustainability.

4. Caring for Livestock


The H-2A visa program expands its scope to include livestock management and care, offering essential farm assistance in these agricultural activities. Workers under this program play a crucial role in maintaining the health and productivity of livestock by performing tasks such as feeding, watering, and monitoring animal health. They ensure animals receive proper nutrition, hydration, and attention for their well-being. 

Farms employing H-2A workers for livestock management must prioritize animal welfare, provision of suitable housing, and promptly addressing health issues. Compliance with industry regulations regarding livestock management practices is essential to maintain operational integrity.

5. Managing Greenhouse Operations and Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)


The H-2A visa program supports greenhouse operations and Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) techniques, meeting the rising demand for greenhouse-grown produce. Greenhouses provide a controlled environment for year-round cultivation and higher crop yields than traditional outdoor farming. H-2A workers play a crucial role in greenhouse tasks such as planting, watering, pruning, and pest management, ensuring efficient operations and meeting consumer demand for fresh produce.

Moreover, the H-2A visa program extends to Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) methods, utilizing advanced technologies like hydroponics and vertical farming. H-2A workers are trained to operate CEA systems, managing environmental factors, and monitoring nutrient levels to maximize crop yields. By employing H-2A workers in CEA, farms enhance efficiency, productivity, and sustainability, meeting market demands for locally grown produce.

6. Performing Seasonal and Temporary Farm Infrastructure Maintenance


Maintaining farm infrastructure is essential for ensuring the efficient operation of agricultural facilities. Tasks such as repairing fences, irrigation systems, and farm buildings are eligible for workers here on H-2A visas. Farms employing H-2A workers for infrastructure maintenance must prioritize safety and adherence to regulatory standards. 

Manage Your H-2A Workers with Harvust

By exploring lesser-known tasks open to H-2A workers, farms with diverse operations can expand their labor pool and enhance productivity. However, employers must adhere to program regulations and prioritize the safety and well-being of all H-2A workers to ensure the success and sustainability of their operations.

For help managing your H-2A workforce, turn to Harvust. Our farm labor management software makes it easy to onboard, and oversee your team.

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James Christopher Hall

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