An untapped workforce option

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The H-2A visa program is designed to help agricultural employers hire legal workers. But because it is a guest worker program — individuals can work for a specific employer for up to 10.5 months in any given year — it is not conducive for many dairy and contract heifer operations.

One solution is to use a visa program contained within the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), says Kerry Scott, senior program manager for MAS Labor LLC, a Lovingston, Va., company that works with agricultural employers throughout the country to help them hire legal workers through the H-2A guest worker program.

The TN, or Trade NAFTA, visa is meant to ease the movement of professionals between the three NAFTA countries — Mexico, United States and Canada. One of the professions written into the program is the category of veterinarians, Scott said during the opening session of the 2012 Dairy Calf & Heifer Conference in Visalia, Calif.

Individuals trained in veterinary medicine are not only a good fit on dairy and heifer growing operations, but many of these professionals are happy to work in the U.S., often for more pay than they would receive in their home country.

“They can be given up to a three-year visa to begin with and (the visa is) renewable,” Scott said. “Only two things are required — certification from (the person’s) government that says this person is a veterinarian and an offer of employment from you, written very specifically.”

MAS Labor works with recruiting services in Mexico that have access to qualified people who are either veterinarians or finishing their veterinary education program.

“I suggest that you look very carefully at TN,” Scott said.

It might just be the short-term solution you’re looking for to ease the workforce challenges you face on your operation.

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