Farmworker housing funded by USDA loans will soon be available to agricultural foreign guestworkers again.
An amendment by U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse allowing H-2A workers to be housed in facilities built with USDA loans is part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018.
Farmworker housing funded by USDA Section 514 loans was closed to H-2A foreign guestworkers by the Obama administration under the premise they could displace domestic workers, said Dan Fazio, director of the farm labor association WAFLA in Olympia.
The problem was brought to light by Bob Boehm, Michigan Farm Bureau commodity and marketing manager, more than a year ago when the organization was assisted by WAFLA in setting up an H-2A program, Fazio said.
Fazio learned the rules prevented H-2A workers from using a 70-bed Yakima Housing Authority facility in Granger, Wash., and would impact housing in Oroville, Wash., this year.
Fazio took the matter to Newhouse, who sponsored an amendment.
The rule change will benefit the Granger and Oroville facilities and farmworker housing built by growers with Section 514 loans, Fazio said.
It also should apply to USDA-funded housing in other states, he said.
“Congressman Newhouse did a great job getting this through the legislative process,” Fazio said. “The more housing available, the better as an aging and shrinking domestic workforce is causing greater use of H-2A.”
WAFLA is the largest provider of H-2A workers in the Northwest.
In a news release, Newhouse said labor scarcity continues to be a growing problem for agricultural producers nationwide and that improving access to guestworkers is a top priority for farmers in Central Washington.
“I applaud USDA’s announcement that it is implementing my legislation to allow housing to be used for both domestic and legally admitted temporary workers,” he said.