Although the federal government has reopened and government service are once again available, many farmers are still hurting from the lingering aftereffects of the two week long shutdown that paralyzed Washington and halted the implementation of countless federal programs.
The shutdown was the result of partisan gridlock in Congress and a battle over President Barack Obama’s controversial healthcare reform. In exchange for funding the federal government, House Republicans demanded the repeal of Obamacare (or at least its defunding) while Democrats in the Senate insisted on a clean budget bill. The temporary impasse resulted in the first government shutdown in nearly 20 years.
While federal programs have reopened and furloughed workers have gone back to work, the damage that has been done to some farmers is hard to undo. In particular, farmers dependent on foreign labor and work visas are finding themselves in a major bind.
For the two weeks of the government shutdown, the work visa program was suspended. In particular, processing for thousands of applications ground to a halt. With a major harvest season approaching and with farmers across the country reporting significant labor shortages, drastic action will need to be taken to ensure that farmers have the necessary manpower to pick their crops.
“We need to fast-track the applications because of the perishable nature of the commodities,” said Tom Nassif, president of Western Growers.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer