Act Now to Help Pass the USMCA

House to Take First Step Towards Full Ratification of USMCA

Provided by California Farm Bureau Federation

This Thursday, the House will take the first step towards full ratification of the renegotiated NAFTA known as the “US-Mexico-Canada Agreement” (USMCA). California agriculture exports $6.6 billion in goods to Canada and Mexico and supports more than 56,000 jobs.
 
Since NAFTA was implemented, U.S. agricultural exports to Canada and Mexico quadrupled from $8.9 billion in 1993 to $39 billion in 2017. After President Trump renegotiated NAFTA, the International Trade Commission determined that the USMCA would have a positive impact on the U.S. economy and a positive impact on U.S. agriculture. An additional $2.2 billion in exports is expected once this agreement is ratified.
 
Congress must pass USMCA to preserve the proven successes of NAFTA while enjoying greater access to dairy, chicken, and eggs. The agreement has positive updates for fruit exports, improvements in biotechnology, protected geographical indications, and strengthened sanitary/phytosanitary measures.
 
All in all, the USMCA is needed to bring more stability to the volatile trade market. Please reach out today to your U.S. Representative to urge their YES vote on this important agreement.

Click Here: ACT NOW for USMCA House Passage

2019-12-25T14:06:59-08:00December 18th, 2019|

California Grape Growers Award Scholarships

Table Grape Growers Help Children of Field Workers

News Release

California’s table grape growers recently awarded scholarships to seven students in grape growing regions of the state. All recipients will be attending California universities or vocational schools.

Four field worker scholarships were awarded: one $3,500, two-year award for study at a vocational school and three $20,000, four-year awards for study at a California university. Three $20,000, four-year agricultural scholarships for study at a California university were also awarded.

 2019 scholarship recipients: $20,000 Four-year Field Worker Scholarships

Mr. Alex Aguilar is a graduate of Shafter High School. He graduated with a 4.3-grade point average and was the associated student body president as well as the all-state, small-school football player of the year. Alex plans to attend San Diego State University, where he will major in mechanical engineering with the goal of becoming an engineer.

Alex Aguilar

Ms. Julissa Elizondo is a graduate of Cesar E. Chavez High School in Delano, where she graduated with a grade point average of over 4.0. Julissa was a member of the superintendent’s honor roll and held an associated student body executive position. She plans to attend UC Davis to major in cell biology with the career goal of becoming an OB/GYN.

Julissa Ruby Elizondo

Mr. Diego Garcia is a graduate of Harmony Magnet Academy High School in Strathmore. He is a California Scholastic Federation member as well as an adult literacy volunteer. Diego graduated with a 4.17 grade point average, and his SAT score placed him in the 89th percentile nationally. He plans to attend UC Davis, where he will major in neurobiology, physiology, and behavior with the goal of becoming a surgeon.

Diego Garcia

$3,500 Two-year Field Worker Scholarship

Ms. Stephanie Torres is a graduate of Porterville High School. Stephanie plans to attend the Clovis Culinary Arts Academy and will pursue a career as a pastry chef. Stephanie graduated with a 3.3-grade point average.

Stephanie Alejandra Ramos Torres

$20,000 Four-year Agricultural Scholarships

Mr. Juan Espinoza is a graduate of Shafter High School, where he held a 4.3-grade point average. He is a four-year member of FFA, a member of the football team and the soccer team’s defensive player of the year. Juan plans to attend CSU Bakersfield, where he will major in agricultural engineering with a goal of mechanizing the table grape harvest.

Juan Nieto Espinoza

Mr. Nicholas Patton is a graduate of Golden West High School in Visalia, where he maintained a 4.0 grade point average. Nicholas was actively involved in FFA and the MVP of the varsity water polo team. He plans to attend UC Davis to major in biotechnology, followed by the pursuit of a master’s degree in biological engineering at Cornell University. Nicholas’ final goal is to develop new food technologies.

Nicholas Patton

Mr. Zachary Wilson is a graduate of Kingsburg High School with a 3.95 grade point average. He was a four-year honor roll student and associated student body vice president, as well as a member of Future Farmers of America (FFA), where he won numerous awards. Zachary plans to attend Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, to major in both agricultural sciences and agricultural business with the career goal of owning an agricultural business.

Zachary Wilson

Since 1985, the California Table Grape Commission (commission) has awarded scholarships to children of table grape field workers.

More than 130 students have received scholarships to attend vocational schools, community colleges, and California universities. In 2012, the commission created a new scholarship program, one designed to encourage those who want to study and work in the agriculture industry with an emphasis in the table grape industry.

To date, the program has helped 27 students attend four-year California universities.

2019-07-09T15:04:16-07:00July 9th, 2019|

2019 Strawberry Harvest is Brisk

Labor Tight, But Incentive Programs Keep Berries Harvested

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The 2019 strawberry harvest is going strong, and field employees are busy picking at the height the ripeness. Carolyn O’Donnell, a communication director for the California Strawberry Commission based in Watsonville, said lots of hands are harvesting the berries.

Carolyn O'Donnell

Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director, California Strawberry Commission

“We need to harvest the berries when ready,” O’Donnell said. “We can’t leave the ripe berries on the plant a few extra days, and we can’t harvest them early and then ripen them in some other modified atmosphere. They have to be picked when they’re ready to go. So, timing is part of it, as well as just having an adequate supply.”

O’Donnell explained how growers are handling the tight labor supply.

“It’s been a challenge. The growers have been doing all kinds of different incentive programs. Definitely, wages have been raised, different benefits have been offered, but we do find that growers are still struggling to keep up with their harvest,” O’Donnell said.

And when those harvesters out there picking the strawberries, they want to make the money, and they are in fact running back and forth with their trays to refill them.

“We are definitely in a busy harvest season right now. And so with a quick harvest comes incentive pay. And harvest workers will be hustling a little bit more. There are lots of berries to pick. There is money to be made,” O’Donnell said.

2019-07-08T16:37:07-07:00July 8th, 2019|

North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance Looks for Solutions

Solutions From The Land on System Implementation

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

California Ag Today recently spoke with Ernie Shea, president of Solutions From the Land. He explained the importance of system implementation and the North American Climate-Smart Agriculture Alliance.

“Our primary areas of focus at the moment are clean energy, climate change, and soil and water conservation in the 21st century,” he said.

They are integrating these areas of focus and the systems involved. There is still a need to find a solution for profitability.

“The biggest and important areas of focus is finding a way to respond to the changing climatic conditions and deliver solutions that create wealth and job opportunities for agriculture,” Shea said.

North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance is looking for ways to deliver solutions.

“We have created the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance, and it is the continental platform for farm and conservation groups that are looking at ways these landscapes can deliver solutions,” Shea explained.

There are conversations taking place at the state level about becoming more sustainable, resilient, and participating in the low carbon economy.

“Carbon sequestration is one of the more exciting new areas of opportunity that are coming for agriculture,” Shea said.

Farming has been framed as a problem in the past.

“Oftentimes, we’re framed as the problem child,” Shea said.

When managing a farming operation, good solid conservation practices are important.

“No-till cover crops are an example that you are increasing the organic content. You are sequestering carbon at a scale that goes beyond what people originally gave us credit for it,” Shea explained.

Well-managed agricultural systems help on many levels. In the upper Midwest, there are continuous corn operations, even no-till corn operations.

“They were measuring the carbon content in the first meter, and they weren’t realizing that the root systems, we’re pulling carbon down well below one meter down to two meters in deeper,” Shea said.

These monoculture landscapes are labeled as something bad. This landscape, in particular, was a critically needed solution. Well-managed agricultural systems can deliver food, feed, fiber, energy, and environmental services.

“If we can figure out a way to create a monitoring and measuring system, then 21st-century agriculture will be seen as solutions, not defined as problems,” Shea said.

2021-05-12T11:05:03-07:00June 25th, 2019|

Raul Calvo: Good Employee Communication Shows Respect

Organizations Must Improve Their Culture

By Laurie Greene, Founding Editor

Communicating with employees on the farm is essential. Furthermore, according to Raul Calvo, owner of Employer Services, the manner in which an employer communicates is critical in terms of making employees feel respected.

“The services I provide to employers, including those in agriculture,” Calvo explained, “are typically designed to improve the culture of their organizations by helping them better manage their employees.”

Calvo described himself as “nonstop-busy because as long as companies have employees, there will always be some sort of conflict. And there are certain skills that foremen and supervisors should have to be able to better manage their employees. Unfortunately, the majority of foremen and supervisors are not very adept in those skills, so we work on helping them with those skills.”

“One such skill is conflict resolution—their ability to resolve conflict among themselves, with their employees, and among the employees,” Calvo said.

“Another skill is their ability to manage and minimize favoritism, probably one of the most difficult things to manage. Favoritism causes employees to come to work with this sour taste in their mouths. You know, they’re constantly thinking, ‘Why me?’ ‘Why not me?’ or ‘Why do they only do this?’ So, favoritism makes any little issue or small problem become much bigger because the employees are already carrying this baggage.”

“Third, we evaluate their ability to communicate with employees, which is very difficult.”

Moreover, Calvo believes communicating technical information is exceptionally difficult, “so we work on programs to help supervisors develop that skill. For instance, I’ll see a supervisor talking with an employee about a movie, a TV show, or a sports game they saw, and they’re communicating this vivid information so clearly. But as soon as the supervisor needs to communicate technical information that is required for the employee to be able to do the job, the supervisor stumbles and often says the wrong thing to the employee.”

“Finally,” Calvo said, “supervisors need to meet with their employees on a regular basis—two or three times per week sometimes. Meetings that should take three to five minutes to end up taking 20 to 25 minutes. A meeting that should take 10 minutes takes 40 to 45 minutes because the supervisor does not have the skills to run an effective meeting. So, we put them through the process of running effective meetings and to be quicker and more to the point.”

These are four essential skills that supervisors and foremen need to develop, according to Calvo.

2019-04-22T17:01:52-07:00April 22nd, 2019|

Tom Nassif: Ag Immigration Reform is Critical

All Fruits and Vegetables Harvested by Foreign Hands

By Cory Lunde, Western Growers Assoc. Director of Strategic Initiatives and Communications

Recently, Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif detailed the critical labor shortages facing American agriculture and laid out the case for agricultural immigration reform before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship.

In his testimony, Nassif stated that experienced workers are aging out of the agricultural workforce, with few Americans lining up to take their place, despite wages well above state and federal minimums. Farmers in all sectors of U.S. agriculture, especially in the labor-intensive fruit and vegetable industries, are experiencing chronic labor shortages, which have been exacerbated by recent interior immigration enforcement and tighter border security policies.

As a result of the uncertain agricultural labor market, Nassif explained, many American farmers are either shifting toward more mechanized crops or moving their operations to other countries.

“The simple fact is this,” Nassif said, “fruits and vegetables that are eaten in the United States will be harvested by foreign hands.”

He continued: “The simple question for you, as members of Congress, is do you want those foreign hands harvesting your fruits and vegetables to be on farms here in the United States or do you want to see production continue to shift to farms in foreign countries?”

After touching on the existing, flawed H-2A agricultural guest worker program, rife with burdensome regulatory red tape, Nassif outlined a two-pronged proposal for agricultural immigration reform that jointly provides a pathway to legalization for existing farmworkers and their immediate families and creates a more flexible, efficient and market-based agricultural worker visa program to ensure a sufficient future flow of labor.

Nassif concluded that while “immigration can be among the most divisive and difficult to resolve in Washington,” this issue is decidedly non-partisan, as agricultural immigration reform is really about securing the future of American agriculture and, by extension, long-term U.S. food security.

Western Growers appreciates the efforts of Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren and Ranking Member Ken Buck to elevate the dialogue around this vital issue, and we look forward to working across the aisle to advance bipartisan legislation that provides our country and farmers with a legal, stable and reliable source of agricultural labor.

2019-04-16T15:40:09-07:00April 16th, 2019|

AgCareers.com is on the Rise

With AgCareers.com, it’s a Job Seeker Market

By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor

A great resource for finding agricultural jobs is AgCareers.com. Jessica Bartow is the new talent solution specialist with AgCareers.com, and recruiting and retaining employees in the agricultural field is what they are focused on.

“The ag industry is incredible because you give food to the world we provide for their needs, and so to be able to help employers that are doing that is quite an honor,” Bartow said.

AgCareers.com

Jessica Bartow

Bartow also works closely with the universities to help get students internships. They provide a lot of internships through their website.

AgCareers.com helps provide employment to job seekers along with helping employers as they are looking for talent.

“It is a job seekers market right now, so our employers are looking for candidates that have experience in the ag industry that want to go into the ag industry,” Bartow said.

Information is available for all types of job opportunities on AgCareers.com. There are a lot of resources to help place interested job seekers considering agriculture as a career.

Job seekers and employers are encouraged to go to AgCareers.com to look at the resources available.

“We can search for whatever job it is and whatever field location. It is an awesome resource. I definitely recommend it,” Bartow said.

2019-03-29T17:29:11-07:00March 29th, 2019|

Honor Cesar Chavez’s Legacy by Confronting UFW Corruption

Chavez Spent His life Trying to Improve Farm Worker’s Lives, Instead of Threatening Their Lives

By Jesse Rojas, Spokesperson for Pick Justice

Cesar Chavez spent his life trying to improve life for farmworkers, fighting for changes he felt would bring about civil rights and justice for workers. At the end of this month, California state legislators plan to honor Cesar Chavez’s birthday as a day of public service.

The work Cesar Chavez did organizing farmworkers is credited with spurring better working conditions and increased wages, putting people who perform difficult work but still struggle to provide for their families a step closer to achieving the American Dream in California.

Jesse Rojas, CEO, The Redd Group

Cesar Chavez has been portrayed as the founder of The United Farm Workers union to help struggling farm workers achieve a better life.
Growing up in the fields in the Central Valley town of Delano, this fight begun by Cesar Chavez is personal to me. I too come from an immigrant background, I’ve eaten with the farmworkers who fought alongside Cesar Chavez and heard their stories.

Today, however, Cesar Chavez would be saddened to see what the UFW has become.

After voting overwhelmingly to leave the UFW, Gerawan farmworkers spent five long years in court fighting the UFW and the ALRB, who refused to count their votes until they were ordered to by a judge.
The Gerawan workers, just like the farmworker activists before they were fighting for a better life – and against a UFW contract that would have lowered their pay.

While in Cesar Chavez’s time the UFW gave farmworkers a voice, today’s UFW instead seeks to silence the workers.

When Gerawan farmworker activist Silvia Lopez, one of the leaders of the fight to leave the UFW, tried to speak with former Governor Jerry Brown, a top UFW leader physically blocked her way. The whole incident was captured on video and reported by the Sacramento Bee.

Cesar Chavez spoke out against humiliation and oppression, such as the methods of today’s UFW bosses.

The Gerawan farmworkers are far from alone. Today, the UFW represents just 1 percent of farmworkers, and more petition the ALRB to leave all the time. As reported by the Los Angeles Times, former ALRB Chairman William B. Gould IV, who resigned from the agency in disgust, stated the ALRB now spends more time on petitions from workers trying to leave the union than those trying to join.

In fact, the UFW even abuses its own workers, who the Los Angeles Times reported had to take the union to court to force the union to pay almost $2 million in unpaid wages and penalties.

Cesar Chavez devoted his life to fighting for workers rights. He supported workers right to choose whether or not to join a union. Civil rights for farmworkers cannot be achieved when the government looks the other way when workers are abused, regardless of who is committing the acts of oppression.

That’s why we cannot honor Cesar Chavez’s legacy without speaking out against the abuses of today’s UFW.

Jesse Rojas is a farm worker rights activist, spokesperson for Pick Justice, and founder of California Farm Workers & Families PAC. Rojas is a tireless advocate for liberty and civil rights and often provides news commentary on issues such as entrepreneurship, labor relations, and politics. 

Rojas also launched Mi America En La Radio, the first conservative Spanish-language radio show in the Central Valley. As CEO of The Redd Group, LLC, his organization offers labor relations, human resources consulting, public relations and political consulting.

2019-03-24T12:52:59-07:00March 22nd, 2019|

California Fresh Fruit Association: Top Issues in 2019

Immigration and Labor Cost are Big Issues

News Release

The California Fresh Fruit Association (CFFA) recently announced their Top Issues for 2019. Members were surveyed in December 2018 and ranked the top issues for CFFA to concentrate on in 2019.

George Rodanovich

President of the California Fresh Fruit Association, George Radanovich, stated “As in years past, our membership has given us strong direction in identifying their top priorities for 2019. The issues of labor, water, and food safety, will lead our list of issues. CFFA will continue to serve as the primary liaison between regulatory and legislative authorities by acting as the unified voice for our members on these and many other issues.”

Here are the results:

1) Federal Immigration Policies Addressing Current and Future Labor Force

2) Increasing Wage Costs (Base Wages/OT Thresholds)

3) Water Supply Availability and Curtailment

4) Immigration Enforcement (ICE)

5) Groundwater Management Requirements (S.G.M.A.)

6) Labor Regulatory Compliance

7) Water Quality Requirements and Clean Drinking Water Liability

8) Federal and State Food Safety Compliance Requirements

9) Health Care Costs (Policy Costs/Paid Sick Leave)

10)  Plant Health Materials (Pesticide, Herbicides, Fungicides, etc.)

As always, it will be the Association’s goal to work on behalf of its members to address these issues and many more, in an effort to create a better working environment for their businesses.

2021-05-12T11:01:50-07:00January 15th, 2019|

Arnoldo Torres: Latino Leaders Must Do Better!

Op-Ed To California Ag Today

Latinos Need a Bigger Voice

By Arnold Torres

In this last round of elections, Democrats ignored the ugly and nationalistic demagoguery of immigrants from Central America that the 45th President pursued relentlessly before Election Day. They allowed the President to continue building a false narrative around immigration. In spite of many Republicans supporting some of the most offensive and verbal racial profiling by a sitting President, our Democratic response was, “vote for me, I am not Republican.”

This President was not only focused on mid-term elections but laying the foundation for his 2020 re-election. He spared no lie to whip up his base.

We heard no substance from Democrats except outrage and sharp criticism of Republicans. Liberal groups like the Center for American Progress and the Third Way noted that running on immigration would not be helpful in securing votes in states and Congressional districts won by the President in 2016. Democrats seemed paralyzed with political fear that they could not capitalize on the anger and growing rejection of Trumpism if they addressed the immigration issue.latinos

Democrats aggressively postured when Republicans followed their script of scapegoating and demagoguing immigrants. They hid behind their words of outrage, old proposals about legalizing Dreamers and no border wall and “abolishing” ICE. They offered no new vision for re-calibrating the policies and discussions that were needed to effectively and honestly deal with the pressures of desperate mass movements of people.

Democrats allowed this President to continue reinforcing a false, ignorant, and racist nationalism about Latino immigrants. The so-called “caravan of invaders” is being “pushed” from sending countries for the same reasons that pushed the ships that sailed with many European refugees/migrants that arrived on U.S. shores in the 1800s and early 1900s.

Latino “leaders” in the national immigration struggle and Latino elected officials in Congress have contributed mightily to the behavior of both parties. It really makes more sense if these Latino “leaders” would stop demanding specific action that has not come about even under President Obama. We must offer viable and balanced policies. The mass movement of people is originating in this hemisphere, and so it MUST fall to us to develop solutions, not ideology.

Due to the inaction of both parties, our community must develop the political agenda for immigration reform that will benefit our nation. Our vision must be specific and comprehensive. The narrative must be honest, factual, balanced and practical and we must begin working with various members of the California Congressional delegation from agricultural producing districts, such as ours. The Trump narrative does nothing more than to pollute the disposition of the U.S. public to push for effective and balanced immigration reform.

There is public support for reasonable reform; the Trump narrative has created a caustic image of immigrants that has become the default position of his base, which is infecting others. The time to act is now. We must realistically address the labor shortages in the agricultural and service industries in California and their dependency on unauthorized labor. We have to frame the issue in economic terms since humanitarian concerns clearly have not been enough.

Our policy outline must offer a constructive and practical new vision. It must include smart enforcement at ports of entry, increased resources for the Coast Guard, increased resources for detection of opioid trafficking from China and India via the internet, and increased resources for local law enforcement in cities located along drug corridors in the U.S. only for enforcement activities related to drug interdiction. Our immigration reform package must include enforcement of existing immigration laws. The GOP narrative is that Democrats are for open borders. Our new agenda must address the issue that drugs from Mexico significantly enter through ports of entry and via the internet from countries outside the hemisphere.

Our agenda must utilize evaluation analyses and propose no private sector detention centers—a vigorous oversight—and accountability mechanism outside of the Department of Homeland Security of these centers and ICE, Border Patrol agents, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

Enforcement must be balanced with permanent legal status for all “Dreamers” who meet the original criteria, temporary legal status for the parents of “Dreamers” who have a history of employment, especially in states that had labor shortages in agriculture, construction, and service sectors. We have to include a pilot temporary worker program with Mexico in U.S. states that have documented labor shortages in the above industries to begin to test new ideas. All federal and state labor laws would apply to these workers along with an increase in funding to monitor their treatment, working and living conditions, and employer compliance.

A critical component that we must explore is the creation of working groups between the U.S. and essential sending countries such as Mexico and those in Central America to discuss how to create a stable economic and security environment in their countries and specific regions that are the source of population movements to the U.S. We must not repeat the mistakes our economic and political policies have committed in these countries that are the foundation of the “push” factors, while not losing sight of the “pull” factors that exist within the U.S. serving as magnets for undocumented workers.

Lastly, we must evaluate and provide for a phased-in mechanism of these policy initiatives and include a legalization process, for the undocumented persons currently in the U.S., in the last phase of this process.

We know that Congressman Panetta and his colleagues from the Central Valley have acknowledged the ugly narrative but have taken no decisive action to date. It is important to note that two of his colleagues lost re-election. Was their loss due in part to the failure to move concretely on immigration, especially in the agricultural sector? It is essential that there be transparency around what Mr. Panetta and the Democrat majority in the House of Representatives will do to begin resolving the growing complexities around immigration. Let’s begin our discussion with a town hall meeting to take place in Salinas that allows an open dialogue concerning our proposal and what our new Congress intends to do.

Arnoldo S. Torres is a journalist, consultant, partner in the Sacramento, California based public policy consulting firm Torres & Torres, and the executive director for the California Hispanic Health Care Association.

2018-12-26T16:22:53-08:00December 26th, 2018|
Go to Top