War in Ukraine keeping seasonal workers abroad, putting a strain on farmers at harvest
BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The H-2-A is a national program that brings workers from around the world to the United States to work in the agriculture industry on a temporary or seasonal basis. In North Dakota, most of those workers come from countries like South Africa, Australia, and Ukraine.
But as the war in Ukraine continues, many workers from that country are not returning to help this harvest season. Farmers got a late start on planting this year which leaves them in a situation where many crops need to be harvested at once to get more work done with less workers.
“When you’re lacking help and you’ve only been able to find a few people out in the workforce to help replace those, it’s tough for them,” said North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.
About 2,600 people come from other countries to work in North Dakota each year. Commissioner Goehring said that not getting international workers is hard on farmers but finding help locally is even worse.
“You try to go internally within your own state, your own community and you just, there’s no one out there that’s working and I don’t know whether I should say that bull, they don’t want to work, they have no desire to work, but they’re just challenged, and I feel for them,” said Goehring.
He adds, custom harvesters have possibly been hit the hardest as they usually hire back the same crew year after year to travel around the country harvesting wheat. But even farmers who stay put have the problem of training in new hires on how their operation works.
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