New Ag Labor Bill Introduced

Rep. Ted Yoho Introduces Bipartisan Ag Labor Bill to Solve America’s Ag Labor Shortage 

This week, Congressman Ted S. Yoho (R-FL), a member of the House Agriculture Committee, introduced the “Labor Certainty for Food Security Act,”-HR 6083. The commonsense, bipartisan legislation will bring relief to America’s farmers and ranchers who are struggling to find steady, reliable labor.

The following Representatives are original cosponsors of this bill: Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA), Andy Barr (R-KY), Neal Dunn (R-FL), David Rouzer (R-NC), Ted Bud (R-NC), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Mike McCaul (R-TX), Mike Kelly (R-PA), Ralph Norman (R-SC) and Ed Case (D-HI).

Congressman Yoho released the following statement:

“Today, we introduced a commonsense plan to end the Ag labor shortage in America.  The Labor Certainty for Food Security Act will bring relief to America’s farmers and ranchers who are in dire need of a steady, reliable labor force. Our nation’s Ag producers, seasonal and year-round, deliver the highest quality food in the world. We are fortunate to live with such abundance.

“To maintain this abundance and low food costs, we need individuals to work the fields, ranches, warehouses, and processing plants. Without a steady, reliable workforce, food prices will increase, and Americans will feel the effects at their local checkout line. If congress does not address this need in a bipartisan, meaningful way, we will either import our labor or import our food.

“I am honored to be joined by my colleagues Reps. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson, Andy Barr, Neal Dunn, David Rouzer, Ted Bud, Vicky Hartzler, Mike McCaul, Mike Kelly, Ralph Norman and Ed Case, who understand the importance of this issue and the needs of America’s Ag community.

“As our efforts gain momentum, it is important to remember that this is not a partisan issue. When Republicans and Democrats come together to provide our Ag producers with the workforce they need to feed America and the world, it benefits everyone.” 

Overview: Ag Reforms for the ‘Labor Certainty for Food Security Act’

Redd Group Hosts Important Management Seminar March 26 in Bakersfield

The Redd Group Presents Management Seminar to Help All Segments of Ag Industry Comply with Arduous Regs

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Jesse Rojas is the Founder and CEO of The Redd Group, LLC, based in Bakersfield. The Redd Group consults with employers to improve employee relations by using and implementing new methods of communication. Jesse and The Redd Group is presenting another important Management Seminar for many segments in the agricultural industry, and that half-day seminar will be on March 26, 2020, in Bakersfield at 4900 California Avenue, Tower B, Second Floor from 1 pm to 5 pm.

“I’m happy to present this seminar again in Bakersfield. Anyone from owners, operators, human resources team members, farm labor contractors, and administrators,” said Rojas. “We’re going to have specific presentations once again from Michael Saqui with the Saqui Law Group. He is the agricultural industry’s most powerful partner on labor issues. I’ve known Michael for several years, and his group recently became a division of Dowling and Aaron, so there are a lot of bigger in the State of California. He’s going to be focusing on a few new topics this year.”

“One of the topics of discussion is PAGA the Private Attorney General’s Act, which many companies have been affected by this frivolous law from the State of California and shark attorneys are suing in class action lawsuits suffocating companies. So, he will be giving a status on how do we attack and how do you protect your company from this PAGA fiasco.” Rojas continued.

“And one of the hottest controversial topics this year as well, as you might know, is AB-5, the Independent Contracting Bill. And really the consequences of AB-5 are going to affect agriculture as well because agriculture, like any other industry requires independent contractors, a lot of companies they need to move their product and they have independent truckers or they have other independent contractors they use in agriculture. And by affecting agriculture, I mean everything from growers, packers, shippers, FLCs, and, most importantly, the workforce. And how do you protect yourself from it?

What can you do to be in compliance with AB-5? As you might’ve heard with some of the pressure coming down on AB-5, they’re working in the legislature on introducing a few different bills to address some of these AB-5 broad consequences.” Rojas emphasized. So that’s going to be very interesting that we discuss AB-5 regardless of how big you are and what specific industry you are in, you need to be aware and know all the ins and outs of AB-5.” said Rojas.

And like in previous seminars, employee relations will be discussed as well. “Myself and Raul Calvo, we’re going to be focusing on, like you mentioned, employee relations. So leadership development for supervisors and managers, proper ways to resolve conflict within your company and your employees. And then strategies for effective employee relations, thinking outside the box to be on the cutting edge of your labor relations and labor management by implementing new methods of communication.” Rojas said.

And of course, with the labor shortages throughout the Central Valley, another hot topic at this seminar will be H-2A.

“As you know, with our labor shortage and changes in work culture in agriculture and farming, H-2A’s becoming one of the best methods to provide labor, efficient labor, high productivity. But it still comes with compliance and loopholes that you have to clearly understand to properly asses if H-2A is the right fit for your company. So we will be discussing H-2A as well.” Rojas explained.

You are encouraged to share the event flyer with the appropriate individuals in other companies who could benefit from the information. Again the event is going to take place on Thursday, March 26, 2020, from 1:00 to 5:00 pm, and registration at 12:30 pm. The location will be at the Cal Twin Towers, 4900 California Avenue, Tower B, Second Floor in the Cal King Room. The cost of the event is $50 per person, and seating is limited. You can register by calling or texting 844-946-7333 or email jesse@reddgroup.org.

 

 

The Impact of Regulations For Farmers

Regulations Affect California Farmers in a Big Way

By Tim Hammerich, with The Ag Information Network of The West

Most Californians will tell you they enjoy the local and diverse amounts of produce available in this state. High labor costs and other heavy regulations are encouraging some farmers to shift more focus on crops that are less labor intensive.

“So with a minimum wage going up, with the overtime rules ratcheting down, we’re kind of caught in a vice,” said Cannon Michael, President of Bowles Farming Co and the 6th generation of his family to farm the land near Los Banos.  “And to put one wage across an entire state where you really have different costs of living in different counties, it’s pretty drastic differences, really makes it difficult,” he added.

“And then when you couple that with the fact that the Federal minimum wage is much lower in a lot of other producing areas of the country that compete with us, don’t have even close to what the minimum wage that we have,” said Michael. “And they don’t have the overtime because they have the federal exemption for overtime.”

And then so not only that, but you look outside of the U S and there’s  Mexico and some of our close competitors there, which have no regulatory standards. “They do not have the standards that push up our fuel prices, chemical costs, really every single input that we have is a higher cost here.”

We are always looking for the right mix of crops that we can grow, that deliver the highest value while again, just not stretching our folks too hard, and too far. “Because it is hard as you diversify into a lot of different things, it gets to be challenging,” he said.

Even though the regulatory pressure is there, Michael said he is very committed to making it work, but the regulatory environment is certainly a challenge.

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.

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.

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 launching a Spanish language campaign to educate the Latino community about working for California dairies, according to Anja Raudabaugh, chief executive officer of the organization.

“We’re basically going to be offering a lot of benefits for Latino employees and their families to stay working for dairies or to come to work for dairies,” she said. “We’re going to be doing quite a bit of immigration services, free of charge for those families. We want to elevate the status of women on the dairy farm because they tend to do really well with the cows and the calves.”

The campaign is known as Lecheros Unidos de California.

“We are really targeted and branding, with the dairy community and not just Western United Dairy,” Raudabaugh said.

The campaign will be heard throughout the San Joaquin Valley on Spanish radio and television. The California dairy industry compensates Latino workers well beyond minimum wage to get the work done.

“This is a effort to strengthen the connection that the Latino community has with the dairy industry,” Raudabaugh. “We want them to know that we care for the community and count on them to work in our industry.”

 

 

 

“Grow On” To Help Growers

Bayer Crop Science’s Grow On Campaign Has Six Focus Areas

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director
Nevada Smith

Grow On is a tool developed by Bayer Crop Science that farmers can use to identify, apply, and communicate sustainable farm practices. Grow On is made up of six different ag sustainability focus areas. This includes water, biodiversity, soil health, greenhouse gasses, labor, and food waste, all of which are important factors in sustainability.

California Ag Today spoke with Nevada Smith, Western Region Marketing Manager for Bayer Crop Science, about the six focus areas.

“One is water. And water is an especially important topic to Californians.”

Biodiversity. Think about the things you’re doing in the environment, from fertility, chemistry compounds.”

Food waste. How do you approach food waste? This is a big topic from a global aspect. Massive amounts of produce goes to waste. How can this food waste be utilized? I spoke to a grocer recently. They said they’re losing 30% of their food to food waste,” Smith explained.

“We think that soil health platform is the next wave of science for the ag industry. What’s going on in that microflora market in the soil? What are you doing to really adjust, get the air right, add right water, the right nutrients? Greenhouse gasses. How do you handle CO2 emissions?”

“Greenhouse gas is a buzzword among consumers. And what component of your farming practices are you doing to mitigate that from a practical standpoint?”

Labor is affecting everybody in California.

“And new labor laws are making business hard for small farmers. The minimal wage standard is a challenging issue, but how do growers become more efficient? How do they understand what the platforms are doing from a grower perspective? Smith said.

For more information on, visit: cropscience.bayer.us.

 

Family Tree Farm Sees Good Season Despite Labor Laws

Family Tree Farm Rising to Meet Challenges

By Melissa Moe, Associate Editor

New state labor regulations continue to make daily operations more difficult for California farmers. With these increasing costs, it is difficult to stay competitive in a global market. Family Tree Farms is a family owned operation out of Reedley. Daniel Jackson of Family Tree Farms said that they’re doing well even, with the new labor laws that are making business more difficult for California farmers.

“The regulations grip us around the throat a little bit, and they’re getting tighter and tighter every year. We’re just trying to keep air in our lungs. To get creative, we have to find ways to be better farmers. To produce more yield and to do it more affordably with less labor. We have to be creative on our cultural practices and how we do that so that we can survive in the marketplace. We’re trying to make it work, but at the end of the day, it seems like every time you solve an obstacle three more pop up,” Jackson said.

Even with these new regulations, Family Tree Farms has been doing well. They have risen up to meet these new challenges, and the year ahead looks promising.

“The labor has been better this year, and I can’t really give the reason why. It wasn’t a great pollenization year, so crops are a little bit lighter as far as the fruits that are on the tree or actually having workers available. That could change as more crops start to come on as the blueberry harvest continues. Cherry seems like they’ll be wrapping up around here as grapes kick into gear later on in another few weeks, so we may run into those challenges as the season goes on, but right now, so far so good,” Jackson said.

Regulatory Agency and Farmworkers Negotiate Accord

A farmworker advocacy group and the agency that regulates pesticide use in Monterey County today announced the establishment of a farmworker advisory committee to advise the agency and to connect field workers to resources that the agency can use to help them. “The advisory committee gives us direct access to farmworker leaders; to their concerns and to their suggestions,” commented Eric Lauritzen, the Agricultural Commissioner of the County of Monterey.

“This gives us the opportunity to engage in positive, productive conversations that will help us fulfill our obligations to the farmworker community and to the agricultural industry in general.”

Farmworker leaders trained by the Center for Community Advocacy (CCA) will compose the advisory committee.

“CCA strives to develop leadership capacity among farmworkers at the neighborhood level,” explained Juan Uranga, CCA’s executive director and lead attorney. “We use CCA’s housing, health and poder popular programs to spot, recruit and engage neighborhood leaders throughout the Salinas and Pajaro valleys.

These leaders first improve conditions in their housing units and neighborhoods. We then create venues where these neighborhood leaders can use their collective power to strengthen their families and create positive change in their communities.”

Six of these CCA-trained neighborhood leaders will comprise the advisory committee.

“We are excited about creating this opportunity,” said one of the CCA neighborhood leaders. “We are pioneers and we hope we’ll be able to work together to help our brothers and sisters who work in the fields. We had a ‘meet and greet’ session with the Commissioner and his staff and we were impressed by their willingness to work with us.”

The Committee will advise the Commissioner’s Office on policies and practices as they impact field workers in Monterey County. The advisory committee and the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office will strive to improve protocols that protect farmworkers from pesticide exposure and other protocols within the Commissioner’s jurisdiction that protect the health and safety of farmworkers.

The partnership will also help disseminate information about resources and programs that the Commissioner’s Office can make available to the farmworker community.

The advisory committee comes after negotiations that led to a Statement of Purpose between CCA and the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office.

The Statement describes the following functions for the committee:

  1. To meet at regular intervals with the Commissioner and his/her staff to exchange information and ideas that will improve the safety of farmworkers.
  2. To help disseminate safety information from the Commissioner’s Office to the farmworker community, as the need arises
  3. To host annual community dialogues where farmworkers and the Commissioner’s Office meet to discuss the Commissioner’s jurisdiction over agricultural lands in Monterey County.
  4. To promote a more sustainable agricultural economy in Monterey County by protecting its most critical resource: farmworkers.

Discussions about forming the committee began several years ago when the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office and Poder Popular, then a program of the Community Foundation for Monterey County and since a CCA program, hosted a community forum.

Working through a rocky start, both the Commissioner’s Office and CCA saw the incredible potential in developing a working relationship. The two agencies had never worked together. Each had questions about the other’s willingness to work cooperatively.

The two agencies developed their relationship by working together on several projects including the AgKnowledge Program hosted by the Grower-Shipper Foundation and a series of small forums between the Commissioner’s Office and CCA-trained leaders. Now, both the Agricultural Commissioner’s office and CCA look forward to this joint effort.

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.