Public comment is open until Sept. 24 on proposed changes to H-2A foreign guest worker regulations.

In a 489-page rule change proposal, the U.S. Department of Labor has suggested altering the H-2A program to require employers to apply electronically, encourage digital signatures and allow staggered start-dates for visiting employees on single applications, according to a department news release.

Several tree fruit groups plan to comment on behalf of the industry, including the Northwest Horticultural Council, based in Yakima, Washington.

“This is the first opportunity in a decade to make meaningful changes to this program, which has become an increasingly important part of meeting the labor demands of the Pacific Northwest tree fruit industry,” said vice president Kate Tynan. U.S. Apple, based in Alexandria, Virginia, and Western Growers of Irvine, California, also plan to submit comments.

As demographics shift, U.S. tree fruit growers and farmers in general are making more use of temporary workers through the H-2A visa program. The federal government certified 243,000 H-2A positions in 2018, nearly triple the number 10 years ago.

Other proposed changes include enhancing housing standards, expanding departmental enforcement options and updating how the Adverse Effect Wage Rates are calculated.

To read the proposal and learn how to comment, visit

—by Ross Courtney

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