The first buses that will bring 500 foreign workers needed to help harvest apples will arrive in the Tri-City area and Yakima Valley Wednesday.
More than 160 of those farmworkers received visas Tuesday afternoon, easing worries that the workers wouldn’t arrive in time to help hand pick what is expected to be the state’s largest apple crop.
Visas for workers coming through the federal H-2A guest worker program had been delayed after a July 20 crash of the State Department’s visa database. The crash created a nationwide backlog of at least 200,000 visas
Some area farmers have started apple harvest this week. While apple harvest lasts into fall, there is a short window when specific varieties and orchards must be hand-picked before the fruit quality is lost.
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Although the workers likely will arrive today, Friday may be the earliest they will be able to work after the day-long bus ride, said Roxana Macias, the Washington Farm Labor Association H-2A program manager.
The association acts as a human resources services manager, and is helping Washington farmers hire more than 5,000 foreign workers for this year’s harvest season. About 8,500 H-2A workers are expected at the peak, with about 1,500 of those workers still to come.
Macias said the association has appointments at the Tijuana, Mexico consulate for the remainder of the workers. More workers are expected in the next two weeks to work in the Wenatchee area and Okanogan County.