Keeping Farmworkers Safe From COVID-19

Ernie NeffCOVID-19, Labor

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) experts are working with farmworkers to help keep them safe from COVID-19. The experts are connecting the farmworkers with COVID-19 free testing, safety information and training – a role they have been serving throughout the pandemic. Extension agents are partnering with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS), … Read More

H-2A Program Updates

Tacy CalliesLabor, Regulation

When the U.S. government announced its decision to suspend visa processing in Mexico on March 18 to combat the spread of COVID-19, growers around the country immediately expressed concerns that the action could have a major impact on agriculture and the U.S. food supply. The concern, of course, was due to the vital role that foreign workers play in the … Read More

Housing for the Harvest Program Expands

Len WilcoxCalifornia Corner, COVID-19, Labor

orange

The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) announced that the counties of Sacramento and San Luis Obispo are participating in Housing for the Harvest. This program was announced by California Governor Gavin Newsom in July 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. Counties … Read More

More COVID-19 Protection Needed for Ag

Tacy CalliesCOVID-19, Labor

The nation’s essential agricultural industry has worked relentlessly through the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure food is put on the tables of American families. Agricultural employers recognize that the health and safety of their employees are imperative to the success of their operations. These employers also recognize consumer demand for fresh, safe and nutritious produce. For years, agricultural employers have adhered … Read More

COVID-19 Testing for Florida Farmworkers

Tacy CalliesCOVID-19, Labor

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced new efforts to provide COVID-19 testing for farmworkers as the fall harvest season begins. The efforts are in partnership with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) and local county governments. Farmworkers will have access to numerous no-cost COVID-19 testing events in some … Read More

Florida Crop Workers at Risk

Tacy CalliesCOVID-19, Labor

As laborers return to the fields this fall in Florida, both unauthorized crop workers and H-2A workers are vulnerable to the coronavirus. According to a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) study, an estimated 75 percent of Florida crop workers have at least one underlying health issue that puts them at risk of developing COVID-19 … Read More

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