The government shutdown may delay processing of temporary visa program that many local farmers rely on for laborers. File photo: Denise Civiletti

As the federal government shutdown grinds on, local farmers are growing anxious about its potential impacts on their operations..

This is the time of year when farmers tend to essential paperwork, said Long Island Farm Bureau administrative director Rob Carpenter. Typically this is when farmers file applications for federal assistance, including grants, loans and insurance, as well as requests for foreign laborers under the H2A temporary visa program, he said.

Farm Bureau president Karl Novak, general manager of Half Hollow nurseries in Laurel, said if the shutdown continues for any length of time, “there will be ramifications.”

Agriculture relies on the federal government for certain types of insurance, such as crop insurance, for loan guarantees, subsidies and grants.

But the prospect of the shutdown extending processing delays in the already delay-plagued H2A agricultural worker visa program is what’s most concerning to local farmers. That program allows farmer who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers to bring nonimmigrant foreign workers to the U.S. on a temporary or seasonal basis.

The H2A applications have to be made and processed now in order for workers to arrive at local farms by early spring.

The federal Department of Labor processes the H2A paperwork. Since funding has already been appropriated for that agency through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, it should not be impacted by the shutdown. However, the applications are also subject to review by staff at the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Both of those agencies are impacted by the shutdown.

“I think everyone in the country is concerned,” Novak said. “It’s not clear how its going to affect people. And you won’t know until you do apply.”

Farmers have long complained about delays in processing by the government — and the resulting delays in the arrival of workers, often to the great detriment of local farm operators.

Any additional delay due to the shutdown will make matters much, much worse, Novak said.

“These shutdowns affect us in ways we don’t even realize,” Novak said. “It’s a mess and it’s unfortunate that it happens,” he said.

There’s already a serious labor shortage on Long Island, Novak said — and the shortage cuts across all sectors, he said, not just agriculture.

“It seems like in government, nobody can give an inch to reach some kind of compromise for the better, for everyone,” he said. “And that’s what they’re supposed to do.”

President Trump and the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives are in a standoff over $5.6 billion in funding for a portion of a southern border wall the president says is essential to protect national security.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) today called on Congress to “do its job” and fully fund the government.

“It should happen before he end of the last fiscal year, the end of September,” Zeldin said during an interview on L.I. News Radio this morning.

“Congress should be funding it and allocating additional resources for border security,” Zeldin said. “It shouldn’t come down to the president having to declare an emergency,” he said.


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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.