You mean Americans will do farm work?:
Colorado farmers have applied for 13 percent fewer foreign worker visas this year and state labor officials believe the cause is the lagging U.S. economy and the thousands of Coloradans looking for work.
“Unemployment is nearly 8 percent across Colorado and that is a big difference than a year ago, when it was around 4 percent,” said Larry Lemmons, targeted program manager for the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. Lemmons’ office oversees the visa applications that are forwarded to the federal and state labor departments.
In 2008, 336 Colorado growers requested “H-2A” farmworker visas for 2,831 workers. This year, 258 growers have requested immigration visas for 2,498 workers. That’s 23 percent fewer growers asking for workers and a 13 percent drop in the number of workers being requested.
Federal immigration law requires growers to advertise their need for farmworkers at the same time they apply for foreign worker visas. Lemmons said the number of farm job applications being handled at Colorado employment centers has increased significantly this year.
“I think that’s the largest reason we’ve seen a decline in the H-2A visa program,” Lemmons said. “In past years, unemployed people in Colorado were not much interested in these seasonal farm jobs. This year we’re seeing hundreds of new applications for those jobs.” Lemmons said the department does not keep statistics on those applications, but that increase has been observed at numerous employment centers. He does not expect the number of H-2A visa applications to change much for the rest of the year, given the lengthy processing time they take and that the growing season is already here.
When (if!) the economy improves, many of these legal workers may well return to being “not much interested in these seasonal farm jobs” — unless the wages, benefits, and working conditions improve, kind of like you’d expect in, you know, a market economy.