Farm Bureau Gets Help on Seasonal Labor Hiring
The Indiana Farm Bureau has developed a partnership with a Michigan-based company to help Hoosier farmers navigate the federal H-2A program to hire seasonal workers. Great Lakes Ag Labor Services LLC helps Michigan, and now Indiana Farm Bureau members, who rely on migrant workers for seasonal jobs such as handpicking fresh produce.
Legally hiring those foreign workers involves large amounts of governmental paperwork, such as arranging for visas, wages, and transportation from home countries.
“The process of applying for and coordinating seasonable labor can be stressful and time-consuming, regardless of the type of operation,” said John Shoup, an attorney with Indiana Farm Bureau.
GLALS was developed by the nonprofit Michigan Farm Bureau five years ago, but it’s a for-profit standalone company. It works with a law firm to provide legal support and to make sure farmers are complying with labor laws when it comes to the guest worker program.
“We act as an agent for the farmer and help them through many of the hurdles as we can through the process,” explained Bob Boehm, general manager for Great Lakes Ag Labor Services.
Boehm says the H-2A program is complex and it faces a lot scrutiny from the U.S. Department of Labor to ensure migrant workers are treated fairly. He says when farmers do this once a year, it’s difficult to learn the system.
“And I think that’s where we’ve been successful, what we’ve done, learned the ins and outs of the process,” said Boehm. “We go to the meetings, and we understand how this works, and have built some relationships that make it more of a workable option.”
The H-2A program involves seasonal jobs that may only last a few weeks or months. It does not cover year-round employment staffing needs.
Boehm says until there’s “real” immigration reform through Congress, the H-2A program is the only option.
“Obviously farmers would prefer that they not have to go through all this, but the number of workers full time, let alone seasonal has just gone down and down,” said Boehm.
The services range in price, depending on the level of support needed.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Great Lakes Ag Labor Services General Manager Bob Boehm said the H-2A program is complex.