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Ukraine war having more unintended consequences on U.S. farmers

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Posted at 8:36 AM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-24 12:24:50-04

LA SALLE, Colo.  — "Labor's always a challenge," said Harry Strohauer, a Colorado farmer.

He is thinking about how he will hire workers to help him with the upcoming harvest.

"Most, not everyone, but most we bring in under H2A are from Ukraine. So that's had its additional challenges this year," he said.

H2A is the type of visa issued to temporary agricultural workers. It allows people who aren't citizens to work legally in the United States.

Most are from Central and South America, but Harry has been hiring roughly a third of his workforce from Ukraine for the last several years.

Since Russia's invasion, Ukraine has been under martial law and the people who might usually go to the U.S. to work have been required to stay and fight.

"Most of my acquaintances became drivers, because I do have a skill of driving heavy-duty, huge equipment," said Dima Goncharuk. He has been coming to Stohauer farms for the last six years from Ukraine through the H2A program.

He came to the U.S. in February before the invasion began this year.

"It all the time makes you sad, because you kind of feel guilty that you're not there," said Goncharuk.

"They're like family. We've gotten to know them and while we don't meet their families, we hear about the kids and different things and so this has hit hard, certainly way harder for them, but it's been hard for us to watch what's going on," said Strohauer.

"I have mother, she's safe. Our city is right in the middle of Ukraine. It's been attacked, only missiled once," said Goncharuk.

But Dima and Harry say it's heartbreaking to watch the effects of the war and realize the need for workers pales in comparison. Still, they know they have to make it through the growing season somehow.

"When you bring in new people, you're not sure what their capabilities are, and plus is just a learning curve. No matter what their capabilities are, every operation is different and there's a learning curve," said Strohauer.

Harry and Dima hope despite their learning curve navigating this situation, they'll be able to have a successful season and be ready to hire more workers from Ukraine when the war is over.