Gov. Ricketts submits comments on federal labor rule regarding detasseling

Governor Pete Ricketts submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Labor on pending changes to rules governing the Temporary Agricultural Employment of H-2A Nonimmigrants in the United States.

“Much of the seasonal farm work done for a seed company with fields in Nebraska is performed by a separate company (harvest company) that contracted with the seed company,” said Governor Ricketts in his comments. “The seed company is the beneficiary of the work performed by the H-2A worker, but they are not the employer of the H-2A worker. The contracted harvest company often comes in from other states. The employer from out of state does not have the networking connections or known reputation to find available Nebraska workers. Meanwhile, there are Nebraska harvest companies that have the workers available to perform the work. In 2019, Nebraska detasseling (harvest) companies had 710 employees wait listed, but certifications were still granted for H-2A workers to perform detasseling,” he said.

According to the Governor’s office, some companies have been using the H-2A program to hire outside labor to detassel seed corn while hundreds of Nebraskans ready to do the work remain on waitlists.

In his comments, Governor Ricketts recommends adding a new labor availability check to the H-2A program to protect the program’s integrity. This additional verification would ensure that Nebraskans willing to detassel get the opportunity before companies bring in other labor.


“The State of Nebraska recommends that the petitioning harvest company be required to include with its petition a certification from the benefiting seed company that it solicited bids for the work and no bids were available that did not utilize H-2A workers,” said Governor Ricketts.

Each summer, more than 7,000 Nebraskans work as detasselers, performing indispensable seasonal labor for seed companies. They rise early to work in the cornfields and spend long hours in the summer heat to ensure that the cross-pollinating process yields a pure seed, according to the Governor.

The governor’s office said for students and school teachers, detasseling is a welcome source of summer employment and a great way to earn income.

For many Nebraskans, detasseling is their first job and serves as a formative, character-building experience. Detasselers learn the value of hard work, the importance of teamwork, and skills in leadership. Detasseling also connects the residents of small towns and cities with Nebraska’s farmers, helping more Nebraskans build ties to the state’s #1 economic industry—agriculture.

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