May 21, 2017

JOBS WHITE PEOPLE WON'T DO:

Area Employers Worry About Impact of Immigration Crackdown (Matt Hongoltz-Hetling, 5/20/17, Valley News)

Upper Valley employers aren't sure how President Donald Trump's actions to tighten federal visa programs might affect them, but businesses throughout the region say they need continued access to foreign labor pools to survive.

"Frankly, I'm scared to death right now about what their prospects are," said Steve Wood, owner of Poverty Lane Orchards in Lebanon, speaking about the handful of seasonal workers who have come north from Jamaica every year since 1992 to help him manage his apple crops.

"They rely on me to take care of their families, and I rely on them," said Wood.

The workers come to the country under the H-2A visa program, which allows American agricultural businesses to hire overseas labor. Businesses in other sectors, including the hospitality industry, rely on a foreign labor force hired through other programs, such as the J-1 student visa and the H-2B program.

For fiscal year 2015, the most recent year on record, Vermont employers requested 515 workers through the H-2A program, while New Hampshire employers requested 167, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor.

"They are the main picking force up here," Wood said. "After years of trying to hire Americans to pick, and putting them in our bunkhouse, we're having some success."

At Edgewater Farm in Plainfield, owner Pooh Sprague said four workers from Jamaica anchor his workforce during the busy pruning and harvesting season. He said the workers are more reliable, more skilled, and have a better work ethic than the average American who is willing to work in his orchards and fields.

Posted by at May 21, 2017 8:07 AM

  

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