The Agriculture Department launched new features on its interactive Farmers.gov portal to help farmers navigate the H-2A visa system, according to a Monday press release.
The updates include the addition of a dashboard that allows farmers to track the status of their eligible employer applications and employee visa applications in real time. It also allows farmers to access all application forms online, according to the statement.
“My mission from the beginning of my time as Secretary was to make USDA the most effective, most efficient, most customer-focused department in the entire federal government—these changes to Farmers.gov are doing just that,” Agriculture Department Secretary Sonny Perdue said.
“USDA’s goal is to help farmers navigate the complex H-2A program that is administered by Department of Labor, Department of Homeland Security, and the State Department so hiring a farm worker is an easier process.”
Other updates to the site streamlined login information, enabled easy access to the Labor Department’s Foreign Labor Application Gateway and created a way to track time-sensitive related to the temporary labor certification applications.
The Farmers.gov site was originally launched in 2018. It was one of the first public-facing products created under the Centers of Excellence program, an IT modernization project announced in 2017.
Since the launch, other updates have been made pertaining to the H-2A visa process, which allows farmers to hire foreign workers for seasonal and temporary labor. In April 2019, a checklist to track application requirements, fees and forms was added as well as a tool to help farmers manage loan information, history and payments.
Though visas have been largely restricted during the pandemic, President Donald Trump’s administration has made exceptions for agriculture workers such as those on H-2A visas. The H-2A program has grown under the Trump administration. It grew by 10.8% from 2018 to 2019, according to Department of Labor data.
“President Trump knows how essential these workers are to our farmers and America’s food supply chain,” Perdue said in the statement. “We will continue working to streamline these and other processes to better serve our customers across the country.”