Worker Transportation Pay is a New Threat to Agriculture

Plaintiff Trial Attorneys Pushing For Ag to Pay for Transportation Time

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Something serious that could cost growers a lot of money concerns paying for worker transportation to and from a field, which traditionally has not been paid.

Michael Saqui is the principal owner of the Saqui Law Group, with offices in Roseville and Salinas. He specializes in labor and employment in agriculture.

“We’ve been having area meetings around the state regarding what we consider to be the most pressing and catastrophic issue facing agriculture today,” Saqui said. “The macro view is the proliferation of litigation against farmers for wage and hour Private Attorney General Acts.”

Saqui said it’s moved from nonproductive time, which could have bankrupted many companies had there not been a fixed put in through AB 1513.

“However, now the California Rural Legal Assistance and plaintiff attorneys have moved to the next big issue and that’s farm worker transportation.”

Farm worker transportation spins off the fact that we have a serious labor shortage, and we’re transporting workers greater distances than ever before.

And workers in car crews and buses and vans are being transported or transport themselves greater and greater distances.

“And the theory, of course from plaintiff trial attorneys is that even when they’re clearly voluntary mechanisms by which workers get transported on buses and vans, that it’s defacto involuntary because their theory is that farm workers have no position or station in life to make their own free decisions or have no other means, which is simply not the case.”

“Our workers for the last 30 years through car cruise and carpooling arrangements in vans have been getting around in servicing our crop needs and we have the best, most productive workforce on the planet,” said Saqui. “The plaintiff trial attorneys just keep nipping at different issues, and this is an issue that could potentially cost us hundreds of millions of dollars.”

For more information go to www.CAFarmersforFairness.com.

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Labor Seminar in Bakersfield On Developing Trends

Many Big Labor Topics to be discussed 

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The Redd Group is offering a labor seminar for owners, operators, HR team members, farm labor contractors and administrators on Aug. 22nd from 8 a.m.to 4 p.m. at Hodel’s Country Dining in Bakersfield.

“We’re going to discuss hot topics in agriculture, oil, and transportation, such as I-9 audits—what to do when ICE show us up and the onerous wage and hour traps,” said Jesse Rojas, with the Redd Group. “We will focus on all that red tape, and burdensome regulations that businesses in California deal with every day.”

The keynote speaker will be former Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, who also owns Continental Labor & Staffing.

Registration required. For more information and to register for the workshop, call Jesse Rojas at 844-946-7333 or email jesse@reddgroup.org.

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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.”

 

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Calcot Could Market 70 Millionth Bale this Year

Calcot Ltd. Chairman Talks California Cotton at 89th Annual Meeting

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Calcot Ltd., a democratically-run cotton marketing cooperative owned by 1,200 select cotton growers in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, held its 89th Annual Meeting in Tempe, Arizona, this week. 

Gregory Wuertz, chairman of Calcot and an Arizona cotton grower, said, “The cooperative started in 1927, and it is just amazing to me that we will reach 70 million bales sometime this year.”

“That’s a lot of cotton if you think about it,” Wuertz said. “And it has a great effect on all the growers. A lot of money has been run through the organization, and we are still doing it.”

Wuertz said Calcot directors are in the field across the western cotton belt, interacting with the industry.

“We have Calcot personnel in each cotton region who are also out in the fields talking to people and bringing up questions. They just don’t stay in their office. We try to get great members, and we work really closely with gin managers and their staff. We want to be on a first-name basis,” he said.

Wuertz noted, “You have to love the lifestyle of cotton production. You get attached to the crop. You plant it in March and harvest it in November. It’s a long-term thing.”

Yet, Wuertz acknowledged, “There are ups and downs. There always are. There is always a new catastrophe because you deal with the weather and the water issues. I think you just build up a little bit of a strength and have tougher skin than maybe some growers have with other commodities.”

Many Calcot growers outside of California are in awe of California producers. 

“California has a lot more regulations,” Wuertz said. “They’re blessed with a really nice climate—just a perfect area. Our climate is a little harsher, but California people work with air quality, labor laws, and their water issues. They have to have a real sharp pencil to make all that work.”

However, Wertz says, California growers always enjoy a better per-pound price for their cotton.

“I think over the years they have developed markets, and because of their climate, they do grow a real [high] quality crop that just demands a higher price. Everybody says there’s no difference, but there is some kind of difference that is just a little better,” he said.

Wuertz explained that the Calcot cooperative is good for growers when it comes to the prices they receive.

“It is the classic cooperative idea,” he said. “It is too risky to try and peak these cotton markets. It is risky to just hold all your cotton and try to peak it at one time.”

“You have to be conservative,” he continued. “Like cotton growers are — very conservative. So you sell some and hold some and seek financing from banks for the short term. We have good tight covenants with the bank, and that’s part of our risk-management policy. We don’t want to speculate, so that is why we sell throughout the year, and we try and watch all those things.”

“We have a very strong relationship with mills and we can sell directly to them, which I think demands more of a premium for Calcot growers,” Wuertz said. “And while most cotton-spinning mills are offshore, we still have a good chunk of cotton going to some very good domestic mills, where they turn out top of the line sheets and higher-count shirts.”

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