Sen. Bill Nelson wants temporary visas expedited after government shut down delayed applications
Workers needed to harvest Florida citrus crops
7:46 PM, Oct 23, 2013
2:56 AM, Oct 24, 2013
BARTOW, Fla. -
"It's important that we get this done on a fast track basis," said Senator Bill Nelson.
Senator Bill Nelson didn't mince his words when he told the Florida Citrus Commission and other growers in the room that there's no time to waste in securing the visa's for thousands of temporary workers who are relied on the help pick the state's citrus crop. Applications that stopped being processed when the Government shut down.
"You can imagine all the applications that stacked up. We're talking about a significant backlog," he said.
Nelson says he's been urging the Department of Labor to quickly resolve that backlog and expedite the H-2A applications that are needed for workers to enter the country as citrus pickers to begin harvesting a crop that will soon be ripe.
"If you can't get the crops picked, the fruits going to rot on the tree and they're going to lose the crop," Nelson said.
Having an entire season of citrus in limbo, has some growers on edge.
"We have to pick our fruit to make the whole year's labor fruitful. So we're very concerned, very concerned," explained Marty McKenna.
McKenna is a third generation citrus grower and Chairman of the Florida Citrus Commission. He employs more than a hundred temporary workers each year and says although you plan for unforeseen setbacks, there was just no planning for this.
"The recent years, we've been facing many challenges; a lot of them are mother nature. Whether it's disease, or whether it's hurricanes. Now we've got a governmental challenge that I just hope we can work together and get it worked out," McKenna said.