Jul 17, 2023Ag Labor Review: Growers’ concerns help shape NCAE mission
I was visiting with a grower the other day who told me, with some apparent relief, that he had not yet had to use the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Program because he had been fortunate to find enough domestic workers to help him when he needed them. He was comforted that he didn’t have to wade through all the government bureaucracy and be confronted by mandated minimum wages devoid of market connection.
He asked why NCAE seemed to spend so much time working on the H-2A regulations.
I congratulated him on being able to miss out on all the fun! The big reason for NCAE spending time on the H-2A regulations is that they are so often in flux. There is a seemingly constant flow of proposed changes to these rules and, whether someone uses the program or not, those changes have a direct economic impact on legacy family farming and ranching operations.
The grower said he appreciates the work NCAE does on non-H-2A issues that impact his operation. This past year he had participated in our webinars on heat stress regulations that will be proposed this coming year by OSHA. The information in both webinars gave him several ideas to help protect workers from heat stress. The discussion was helpful in getting him to think about how
he would form his comments on the regulation after the proposal was published.
I told him we were pleased he found the information useful and that NCAE is always looking for new ideas on educational topics that would be of interest to ag employers.
He then thanked us for putting together a webinar on payroll tax issues, as he learned some valuable tips. The grower noted that the recorded information allowed him to review the information again, as his filing deadlines approached.
Additionally, we exchanged information about the Annual Ag Labor Forum in Las Vegas, because I had seen him and his wife there, and whether the topics were important for their business.
He responded they were absolutely on point. He enjoyed the presentation on the Fair Labor Standards Act. He also shared that his wife found the seminar on the Migrant and Seasonal Ag Worker Protection Act (MSPA) to be insightful, and the discussion of recent MSPA cases helpful in protecting their business. The presentations by economists discussing farm labor economics helped him realize how impactful the H-2A program was on his business, even though he hasn’t used it yet. He said he hoped we could rein in the H-2A wage rates because he knew they were having a direct impact on his cost of production. He hopes to pass down his enterprise to the next generation in his family but is concerned H-2A regulations are forcing America’s food production overseas. He asked how he could compete with a blueberry grower in Canada or Mexico who has a much
lower cost of production.
Finally, he said that a forum presentation on what the triggers were requiring them to provide employee benefits, such as health insurance and retirement, to his seasonal workers, had caused him to contact his CPA and his attorney in order to put a plan into place. I appreciated his feedback because to constantly improve NCAE, we need to hear what our members need to make their businesses better.
He thanked me for all NCAE does to help ag employers. I told him he was welcome and that I hoped he could get some sleep.