California Introduces Housing for the Harvest

Len WilcoxCalifornia Corner, COVID-19, Labor

California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that Housing for the Harvest is underway in Fresno and other Central Valley counties. This is a new program designed to provide temporary hotel housing options for farm and food-processing employees to self-isolate if they are COVID-19 positive and do not require hospitalization. The state is securing hotel rooms in participating counties like Fresno and … Read More

COVID-19 and Farm Labor

Ernie NeffCOVID-19, Labor

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is encouraging growers to ensure that the farm labor contractors with whom they work pledge to implement COVID-19 workplace safety guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FDACS issued an addendum to be signed by farm labor contractors (see here) and a training acknowledgment form to be signed … Read More

Making the H-2A Process Easier

Ernie NeffLabor

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced new features on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Farmers.gov website designed to help facilitate the employment of H-2A workers. The vast majority of Florida citrus is harvested by temporary foreign workers employed through the H-2A program.   “USDA’s goal is to help farmers navigate the complex H-2A program that is administered by … Read More

Australia Citrus Harvest to Resume

Tacy CalliesInternational, Labor

Citrus Australia is relieved the citrus harvest in New South Wales (NSW) can resume following the NSW government’s decision to overturn its ban on seasonal workers overnight. Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock has urged the government to consult with relevant communities and industries before making such drastic changes in the future. As of Thursday night, seasonal workers who reside in … Read More

Labor Ban Costs Australia Growers Millions

Ernie NeffCOVID-19, International, Labor

On July 27, Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock said a ban on citrus workers entering New South Wales (NSW) is costing growers $1.7 million a day. Hancock has urged NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian to consult with industry and cancel the ban that is keeping out seasonal harvesters. The restriction on harvesters entering NSW was instituted to curtail the spread of … Read More

COVID-19 Restriction Puts Australian Citrus at Risk

Ernie NeffCOVID-19, International, Labor

Citrus Australia says a newly enacted border zone instituted to curtail the spread of COVID-19 will result in citrus crops rotting if seasonal harvesters can’t get into New South Wales (NSW) quickly. The new border zone along the Murray River will tighten restrictions for entry from Victoria into NSW. “Although the agriculture industry has been defined as a critical service, … Read More

H-2A Change May Aid Growers

Ernie NeffLabor

A temporary final rule change to some H-2A requirements is intended to help citrus and other agricultural employers avoid disruptions to their labor forces, protect the food supply and lessen impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. The rule change was announced by the Department of Homeland Security with the support of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Temporary foreign H-2A workers make … Read More

Harvesting Labor a Concern

Ernie NeffLabor

Harvesting labor availability has reportedly been adequate so far this season for the Florida citrus industry. However, it could become an issue as some foreign workers under the federal H-2A program leave to work in other industries or to harvest other crops. Several Florida citrus growers and association executives recently addressed the labor situation. “As our season winds down, it … Read More

California Growers Face New Contractor Rules

Len WilcoxCalifornia Corner, Labor

Citrus growers in California need to reevaluate their working relationships with independent contractors to ensure they follow new state regulations that redefine who is an independent contractor. Signed by California Gov. Newsom last fall, the new rules state that any worker is an employee unless the hiring entity can demonstrate that the worker is an independent contractor. The law becomes … Read More

Congressman Yoho Introduces Ag Guest Worker Bill

Tacy CalliesLabor, Legislative

As labor continues to be a top-priority issue for producers nationwide, Congressman Ted Yoho is aiming to lessen worries of a labor shortage by introducing a new ag guest worker bill. He discussed this new bill in a recent exclusive interview with AgNet Media’s Abbey Taylor. According to Yoho, the bill shies away from immigration and focuses solely on ensuring … Read More

H-2A Made Easier

Ernie NeffLabor

A panel discussion at Citrus Expo’s general session aimed to help make the federal H-2A foreign guest worker program a little easier for agriculturists to navigate. The panel included a grower representative who has used H-2A, a labor attorney who is an H-2A expert, and a federal Department of Labor (DOL) regional director. Natalie Gupton, director of business services and industry … Read More

Grower/Hedger Has Labor Concerns

Ernie NeffLabor

labor

Discussions about citrus labor frequently focus on concerns about a shortage of harvesters and problems with the federal program that allows temporary foreign workers into Florida. But grower and hedger Frank Youngman recently voiced concern about a shortage of more skilled grove workers. Youngman said with tractors becoming “more technologically enhanced with GPS systems and so forth, we don’t have … Read More

Retaining High-Skilled Harvest Workers

Tacy CalliesLabor

By Skyler Simnitt, Gulcan Onel and Derek Farnsworth  In an environment where citrus is still mainly harvested by hand and skilled domestic workers are harder to employ, employers increasingly rely on the H-2A guest-worker program to establish and retain a reliable and efficient workforce. It is estimated that guest workers now account for 80 percent or more of all citrus … Read More

Navigating the H-2A Program

Tacy CalliesLabor

By Fritz M. Roka The number of H-2A foreign guest workers employed in Florida’s agricultural operations has grown from 4,400 in 2009 to nearly 23,000 by the start of the 2015 citrus harvesting season, more than a five-fold increase (Figure 1). More H-2A workers came to Florida in 2015 than to any other state. Industry leaders estimate that more than … Read More

H-2A Contracts, Costs and Considerations

Abbey TaylorLabor

oranges

By Jaci Shreckengost The H-2A program is a guest-worker program that allows people from other countries to come to the United States on a visa as agricultural employees for temporary, seasonal work. Many industries are beginning to use H-2A due to uncertainty over the domestic labor supply, says Fritz Roka, an associate professor of agriculture economics at the University of … Read More

Citrus Industry Participates in H-2A for Labor Needs

Abbey TaylorLabor

By Jaci Shreckengost Concern over availability of domestic employees in the United States has caused growers to change where they get their labor. Fritz Roka, associate professor of agriculture economics at the University of Florida’s Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, says the uncertainty surrounding the immigration policies of the current United States administration has led growers to … Read More

Farm Labor Supervisor Training Coming in Fall

Ernie NeffLabor

labor

Carlene Thissen, project coordinator for farm labor supervisor training at the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, discusses the training scheduled for this fall. “We have for the last five years offered training to farm labor supervisors,” Thissen says. “So basically the way we say it, regarding farm workers, we make their bosses better. And we make sure … Read More

Citrus Harvester Survey Reveals Changes in Labor Force

Tacy CalliesLabor

University of Florida researcher Gulcan Onel recently provided a first look at data she gathered from surveying 307 Florida citrus harvesters in 2016. She debuted her early research findings at the Florida Agricultural Policy Outlook Conference on February 9 at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center. While she noted that the data is still being further analyzed, she shared … Read More

Disease, Harvest Labor, Environment Big Issues in Gulf

Ernie NeffDiseases, Labor

Disease, Harvest, Environment

Gulf Citrus Growers Association (GCGA) Vice President Ron Mahan, who chaired a recent GCGA member lunch, discusses key issues facing the association. Mahan says the area’s number-one concern is disease pressure “and adjusting our management and growing practices to minimize disease impacts.” He notes that Florida is “going to be at one of our low points in production this year,” … Read More

Guest Workers: Past, Present and the Future

Josh McGillLabor

By Gülcan Önel and Derek Farnsworth The U.S. agricultural sector has a long history of dependence on foreign workers, and the Florida citrus industry is no exception. Even though mechanical harvesting systems saw increased usage between 1999 and 2006, the discovery of citrus greening in 2005 and its subsequent spread across Florida virtually eliminated mechanical harvesting efforts by 2015 in … Read More