Failure to Act Would Threaten Maryland’s $355 Million Seafood Industry and Supply Chain; Governor Renews Call for Long-Term, Permanent Fix
News Release, Office of Governor Larry Hogan
ANNAPOLIS, MD—With Maryland’s blue crab harvest season starting on April 1, Governor Larry Hogan today urged federal officials to make more H-2B Nonimmigrant Temporary Worker Program visas available to help protect Maryland’s $355 million seafood industry and supply chain. In a letter to Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, the governor also called for a long-term, permanent solution to provide certainty to rural Maryland and in particular the Eastern Shore. Read the governor’s letter here.
In a typical year, 500 H-2B seasonal workers are needed for Maryland’s 20 licensed crab picking houses. Research conducted by the University of Maryland indicates that every H-2B temporary worker in crab processing helps create 2.5 jobs for American citizens.
“In support of Maryland’s seafood industry and other seasonal employers, I request that you take immediate action to increase the number of H-2B Nonimmigrant Temporary Worker Program visas—now capped at 66,000—to the maximum allowable under federal law,” writes Governor Hogan. “These workers are vital to rural Maryland and in particular our Eastern Shore. In addition to lifting the cap, I ask that you partner with Congress and Maryland’s congressional delegation to finally find a long-term solution to this issue.”
Last year, Governor Hogan was successful in pushing the U.S. Department of Homeland Secretary to release an additional 30,000 visas through the H-2B program. This came after the federal administration’s 2018 decision to limit the number of visas available, a move that devastated the local crab industry and seasonal employers.
“Without these temporary workers, and without an end to the arbitrary lottery system, local seafood processors will be unable to open for business or be forced to significantly reduce their operations,” writes Governor Hogan. “Another year of hardship could permanently damage Maryland’s sustainable seafood industry, causing these iconic family and small businesses to close or constrict, which would have a devastating impact on commerce and jobs, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas of the state.”
In his letter, the governor also invited Secretaries Scalia and Wolf to personally visit a Chesapeake Bay crab house or processor.