H2-A is Only Legal Solution For Labor Without Immigration Reform

H2-A is Heart of One Farm Labor Contractor

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

H2-A employees are the heart of one major farm labor company. Steve Scaroni owns Fresh Harvest, a premier labor provider and staffing and harvesting company to the agricultural industry and the western United States. But the company’s main emphasis has always harvested crops related to salads; they have also expanded into permanent crops.

“Last year, we started citrus and pears, and we will continue to expand in vegetables with anything that goes into a salad, lots of head lettuce, romaine, and broccoli, which is what we have been doing for a long time,” Scaroni said.

And then we touch a lot of salads every day. The H2-A temporary agricultural program allows agricultural employers when anticipating a shortage in domestic workers to bring non-migrant foreign workers to the US to perform agricultural services for a temporary or seasonal nature.

Steve Scaroni

“If it wasn’t for H2-A, I wouldn’t be in business. I mean that’s the only way to get a legal worker into California to serve my customers demands for the services we offer, which is mostly labor and harvesting,” Scaroni said.

“And we’re even starting to do a lot of farm services. We’re bringing up 100 irrigators this year to put throughout the Salinas Valley because our Salinas customers can’t get enough irrigators,” he said.

Being a labor contractor has its difficulties. It takes a lot of work. It’s a very bureaucratic process-driven application process.

“Laborers that show great work ethic will be able to work for a longer period of time. A worker could technically stay if I can move it from contract to contract, and I can keep the temporary employee for three years,” Scaroni said. “But then he has to go back for 90 days, but it’s very hard to time the contracts for that to work.”

“So most guys, they’ll do five, six, seven months. They’ll go home before they can come back. And then the guys that are really good workers with and a great attitude and really get it done for us. We’ll move to another contract. Will even retrain them in a different crop if they have the right attitude and work ethic,” he said.

More California Ag News

HR 4760 Must be Opposed Nisei Farmers League Opposes Congressman Goodlatte's Bill H.R. 4760 By Manuel Cunha, President of Nisei Farmers League Nisei Farmers League strongly...
Laurie Greene Wins Journalism Award Greene Wins Fresno County Farm Bureau Award for Series on Farm Workers’ Rights By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor The Fresno County Farm Bureau (FCFB) rec...
Forward Farms is a Knowledge Platform Forward Farms Reaches America By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor Becky Langer, the project manager for the North American Bayer Bee Care Program,...
Latino Workers Appreciated on Dairies Campaign Targeting Latino Community for Dairy Workers By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director Western United Dairymen, based in Modesto, is launchi...

Tom Stenzel Says Produce Safety Critical

California Ahead of the Curve on Food Safety

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Tom Stenzel, President and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association, a lobbying group in Washington D.C., recently spoke with California Ag Today about new developments in food safety as well as some recent issues in regards to labor.

“Our industry’s been revolutionized in the commitment to food safety over the last ten years. Everybody from the ground up through the processing facilities … it’s our number one priority. The same time, the feds have these new rules and regulations that are coming out with some compliance states starting now in 2018, so we’re just trying to make sure that it is reasonable enforcement that the Feds understand as they’re looking at farms, looking at processing facilities, that we’re in this together. Ultimately, all of us just want to make sure that consumers have safe food,” Stenzel said.

Stenzel said many producers in California are already ahead of the curve when it comes to food safety.

“I mean, you look at the leafy greens industry on the Central Coast: They’ve been ready for a good while with very high produce safety standards,” he noted. “But … there’s some areas across the country where it’s going to be a little bit more challenging. But that’s OK, too, because everybody wants to raise their game. They want to make sure that we’re doing everything we possibly can to deliver safe food.”

Stenzel noted that labor is a big issue, especially in California.

“The number one issue I’m hearing across the country from fruit and vegetable agriculture is the shortage of labor. Now for us, the solution – it’s going to be two parts. It’s got to be a new future guest worker program, and for that, we really thank U.S. Congressman and Chair of the House Judiciary Committee Bob Goodlatte for raising the issue [and] pushing a bill. It’s not everything we want to see, but at least he’s raising his head on that issue,” Stenzel said. “However, we need to deal with the current workforce.”

“We also need to have a bigger commitment to get legal status for those who are already here. These are men and women who’ve been here for twenty years,” he explained. “This is their home where they have raised their families, they’ve got children who are U.S. citizens and they’re working in our fields. We can’t deport them. That doesn’t make sense as a country and certainly not as an agricultural industry.”

 

More California Ag News

Safe Food Alliance Shines in Food Safety CDFA Awards Contract to Safe Food Alliance for Grower Produce Safety Training The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) has contracted...
Congress Fails At Immigration Reform Editor's Note: This is an op-ed from Arnold Torres. Torres comments favorably on Manual Cunha's recent op-ed regarding the failing US Congress on Immi...
Congress Fails on Agricultural Workers A Failing Congress  Editor's Note: This letter was submitted by Manuel Cunha Jr. He is President of the Fresno-based Nisei Farmers League. Every day...
Washington Post Writer Sees Ag Issues with RAISE A... Disconnect Exists with Urban Politicians, Ruben Navarrette says By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor Ruben Navarrette grew up in the Central Valley and i...

Agricultural Guestworker Act Won’t Help California

Proposed Legislation Long Way from What State Needs

By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor

Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s Agricultural Guestworker Act is moving forward for the full Ag Committee to consider it, but according to Paul Wenger, President of the California Farm Bureau Federation, it’s a long way from what California needs.

“They did something with the H2C proposal. It’s a long, long, long ways from what we need here in California. We’ve been very clear on that … with Kevin McCarthy’s office, being the leader of the Republicans and really our key architect for all things that go through the Legislature, and so we’re in constant contact with Congressman McCarthy,” Wenger said.

The ag leaders in California are pretty astounded that Congress is doing anything about labor.

“We’re glad we finally got something to discuss, but there’s a long ways to go,” Wenger explained. “As it’s written, as it came through the subcommittee, there’s really nothing there that would work for our employees here in California and give us the kind of flexibility that we need, but we need a vehicle to start the discussion. … Talking to Congressman [David] Valadao’s office, Jeff Denham and others on the Republican side because it’s really got to be led by the Republicans.”

“We  now need a lot more that will allow for some portability of our workforce, in order to get legal documentation for those folks that don’t have good documentation that are already here in our state working without touchback, because we know folks aren’t going to go back and stand in line for 20 years waiting for some kind of a work authorization.”

 

More California Ag News

Simplifying Ag Terms Important in Advocacy Advocating for Ag with Simplified Terms By Brianne Boyett, Associate Editor It’s important when the agricultural industry is speaking with others ou...
Washington Post Writer Sees Ag Issues with RAISE A... Disconnect Exists with Urban Politicians, Ruben Navarrette says By Joanne Lui, Associate Editor Ruben Navarrette grew up in the Central Valley and i...
Farm Workers Strive For Success Farm Workers and Dreamers Work Hard To Reach the American Dream By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director Joe Del Bosque is a diversified farmer in w...
Ag Unite Addresses Critical Ag Issues Ag Unite Brings Stanislaus County Together By Jessica Theisman, Associate Editor The Stanislaus County Farm Bureau was recently recognized with a ...

CALIFORNIA HELPING FARM LABORERS PAY BILLS DUE TO DROUGHT

“The majority of the jobs here are Ag related so you’re talking close to 80 percent of the community that depends on Ag; from truck drivers to field workers to working in the packing sheds,” said Mendota Mayor Robert Silva.


When water is scarce, so are jobs in the fields — making it harder for people to pay rent. 

“People are working but they’re not working as much as they used to,” said Silva.

Which is why the state of California is helping laborers pay their bills. The Department of Housing and Community Development is offering drought housing rental subsidies in 24 counties including Fresno, Tulare and Merced.

“I wouldn’t expect it to be available past November but hopefully the drought will have subsided by then and people will be getting back to work,” said Evan Gerberding of DHCD. 

There’s roughly $7 million left from the subsidies available for people who can’t afford rent or utility bills — an emergency net to last families up to three months. The state agency hopes the short term disaster assistance provides some sort of relief. 

In addition to rental and utility assistance, communities like Mendota have ramped up their food distribution.

More California Ag News

BIG WATER RALLY SCHEDULED FOR JAN. 16! Thousands Needed To Participate In Big Water Rally on Jan. 16  
Solano County 4-H Clubs Win Big at Skills Day When Life Gives you Lemons, Make Lemon Curd! Showmanship winner Tyler Scott of the Wolfskill 4-H Club DIXON--Tyler Scott of the...
California Ag News UC To Help Ranchers UC to Help Ranchers Survive Winter 2013-14 The first agricultural operations to feel the impact of a drought are dryland ranchers, many of whom r...
MONTEREY FARM BUREAU WARNS CPUC ON WATER ISSUES Desalination Plant Could Jeopardize Groundwater Supply California American Water could threaten the ground water supply of the Salinas Valley where u...