Agricultural groups are asking the federal government to keep farmworkers flowing into the country as the coronavirus pandemic and the spring cropping season simultaneously ramp up.
“An interruption to the processing of agricultural worker visas will undoubtedly cause a significant disruption to the U.S. food supply,” a coalition of ag organizations said in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The letter’s signatories include the American Farm Bureau Federation, National Farmers Union, National Milk Producers Federation and U.S. Apple Association.
The U.S. embassy and consulates in Mexico suspended routine visa services on March 18 as part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nonimmigrant visa application will be accepted for emergency travel only.
The coalition is asking that all ag worker appointments at the consulates be considered emergency visa services.
The New York Farm Bureau sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging the timely processing of farmworker visas, and sent another letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo urging that any mandatory business closures exempt farms, their supplies and food processors.
“Despite the spread of the COVID-19 virus, cows need to be milked, livestock needs to be fed, seeds need to be planted, machinery has to be repaired and regulations mandating environmental compliance will need to be met in order for food to continue to be placed on store shelves,” the group said.
Pennsylvania has already affirmed that agriculture is not among the sectors the state is urging to temporarily shut down to slow the spread of the new virus.