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American Farm Bureau Federation reports:

Washington - The American Farm Bureau Federation is asking the Biden administration to exempt farm labor from its recent proclamation suspending travel from several countries due to COVID-19 concerns. The ban includes guest workers from South Africa.

In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske, AFBF President Zippy Duvall wrote, "The most recent available data indicates that approximately 5,000 of these valued essential workers originate from South Africa. Many of these South African H-2A workers have a unique skillset, and American farmers are counting on their timely arrival as they make plans for their upcoming growing seasons."

The letter asks agriculture workers to be exempted from the proclamation under Section 2(B)(xii), which allows the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security to allow non-citizens from restricted countries to travel to the United States if it is in the national interest. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency designated food and agriculture workers as essential during the pandemic.

"While protecting our nation from new strains of COVID-19 is critically important, it is in our national interest to ensure production of food, fuel, and fiber," the letter states. "While AFBF remains committed to reducing the spread of COVID-19, farmers, H-2A workers, the Department of Homeland Security, and State Department can work together to allow workers taking appropriate health and safety precautions to travel to the United States."

Read the letter here.

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