July 6, 2020
Labour shortage due to COVID-19 may affect US soybean and corn harvests
United States wheat farmers are affected by the shortage of seasonal immigrants who come to work on farms due to COVID-19, which may affect soybean and corn harvests that begin in September, Reuters reported.
Farmers have been forced to employ high school students, bus drivers, sacked oilfield workers and others to operate machines and run the farm. This has pushed wheat prices higher amid low stocks and predicts the effects of a labour shortage on the upcoming soybean and corn season.
Reuters interviewed farmers and harvesting companies, who said their new US workers need additional training, quit more often.
The US labour department said the number if H-2A visas approved foe agriculture equipment workers have increased to 10,798 between October 2019 to March this year, a 49% increase compared to last year. The H-2A visa allows migrant farm workers to work in the US for months at a time.
However, the interviewed farmers and companies said those workers have found it difficult to travel to the US because of travel restrictions, tightened border controls or fear of COVID-19.
One farmer, Ryan Haffner of High Plains Harvesting in Kansas said only four out of 10 workers had arrived while Doug Zink, a North Dakota grower said his two South African workers only arrived late-June. Convoy operators representative US Custom Harvesters Inc said looking for workers has become the top issue in the industry.