Federal Administration Agrees to Release Additional H-2B Visas to Help Maryland’s Seafood Industry
Announcement Comes After Weeks of Hogan Administration Urging Federal Action
ANNAPOLIS, MD—After weeks of urging federal officials to take action, Governor Larry Hogan today praised the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s announcement that it will release an additional 35,000 visas through the H-2B Nonimmigrant Temporary Worker Program. This will help protect Maryland’s $355 million seafood industry and supply chain, particularly ahead of the start of the blue crab harvest season on April 1.
On January 21, Governor Hogan wrote to federal administration officials urging them to release these critical visas, and calling for a long-term permanent solution to provide certainty to rural Maryland and in particular the Eastern Shore.
“I am pleased to report that our efforts to make additional H-2B visas available to help our state’s seafood industry have again proven successful,” said Governor Hogan. “While we still urgently need a long-term solution to this problem, this announcement is welcome relief for our state’s iconic crab processing houses and seafood industry.”
Maryland’s Best Seafood, a marketing program within the Maryland Department of Agriculture, released a survey earlier this week measuring the economic impact of the state’s crab industry and the importance of the federal H-2B temporary visa program.
- All eight crab processors surveyed agreed that the current lottery system for awarding temporary visa requests creates uncertainty that hurts their businesses, and that limiting the number of available H-2B visas hurts Maryland’s seafood industry as a whole.
- Seven of the eight crab companies indicated that they would not open for the 2020 crab season without adequate H-2B workers. The shuttering of these processors would severely impact the supply of “True Blue” Maryland crabmeat, as well as the livelihoods of American workers who rely on the industry for employment, including commercial watermen, restaurants, and local businesses.
- Without these seasonal workers, the survey showed that income for watermen would drop by $12.5 million; processors would lose $37-$49 million in sales; Maryland would lose 914-1,367 jobs; and the overall hit to the state’s economy could be $100-$150 million.
This is the third straight year Governor Hogan has been successful in pushing the federal government to release additional visas through the H-2B program.