Cal Poly Student Proposes Cost-Saving Plan to Help Small Farmers Recruit Workers

Fourth-year agribusiness major at Cal Poly Jose Alvarez was recognized by the California Legislature for his proposal to streamline the federal H-2A visa program.

Alvarez, who is scheduled to graduate soon, submitted his idea in the national Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences annual conference last spring in Jacksonville, Florida. He was representing Cal Poly’s Latinos in Agriculture Club.

His business pitch is called “Together in Agriculture for a Greater Good.” It uses a nonprofit model that would reduce costs for small ranchers and farmers to hire a professional who would complete the federal H-2A visa program applications.

“In theory, it would start as a pilot program in California, where essentially the program would subsidize the cost of using the H-2A visa program,” Alvarez said. “Usually, big farmers are the ones that use that because it’s costly, time-consuming, has government regulations and the cost goes to the farmer.”

The H-2A visa program was first launched in the 1980s. It allows foreign nationals to come into the US only temporarily for seasonal agricultural work. It was created to respond to the shortage of native agricultural workers.

There is time-consuming paper work process needed to process an H-2A visa, which larger farms and ranchers out-source to private contractors.

The program would do the paperwork and reduce the costs, and cut out middlemen and contractors,” he said. “I was focused on smaller farmers and allowing them to use a similar service.”
In addition to this simple cost-saving aspect of the proposal, Alvarez also added the idea of recruiting illegal immigrants who are already living in the country, but having a difficult time finding work.

This would reduce the pressure and inconvenience of recruiting workers outside the country.

“You have to find these workers and do recruiting, so I thought, ‘Why not let people already illegally here in the U.S. apply for this program, too?’

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