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  1. #1
    Super Moderator GeorgiaPeach's Avatar
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    U.S. restricts visas for farmworkers, raising concerns about food supply

    U.S. restricts visas for farmworkers, raising concerns about food supply

    "This could have a very serious impact on the flow of fresh fruits and vegetables to American stores," the head of a farmers group said.

    March 19, 2020, 4:28 PM EDT

    Suzy Khimm


    To reduce coronavirus transmission, the federal government has stopped conducting visa interviews for temporary farmworkers from Mexico who want to work in the United States — a move that could disrupt America's supply of fresh fruit and vegetables, industry groups say.

    The temporary visa program for farmworkers, known as H-2A, is not entirely halted. Guest workers from Mexico who previously came to the U.S. under the program can be granted interview waivers and allowed to return if their visas expired within the past 12 months. But federal officials told growers that they would stop processing H-2A visa applications from new workers, according to USA Farmers, a group representing H-2A employers, and the Western Growers Association, which represents growers in states including California and Arizona.
    A growing number of U.S. farms are relying on H-2A workers as the rural workforce has aged and immigration enforcement has ramped up. In fiscal year 2019, the Labor Department certified over 250,000 positions for temporary foreign farmworkers through the H-2A program, according to federal data. The vast majority come from Mexico.
    "An interruption to the processing of agricultural worker visas will undoubtedly cause a significant disruption to the U.S. food supply," a coalition of agriculture trade groups wrote in a letter Tuesday to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging the federal government to process all H-2A applications as emergency visas. Two House Republicans also sent a letter to Pompeo voicing concerns.

    The State Department said that it was "reviewing all possible options" and emphasized that it was still making H-2A visa applications a priority. "We are well aware of the importance of the H-2 program to the economy and food security of the United States," a State Department official said in a statement.
    Despite empty shelves and panic-buying, there are not broad signs of disruption to America's food supply chain because of the coronavirus; over half of all fresh fruit and a third of fresh vegetables are now imported, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

    This browser does not support the video element.


    But the new restrictions on H-2A visas could leave West Coast farmers in the lurch just as they are preparing to harvest lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, celery and strawberries, said Dave Puglia, president and CEO of the Western Growers Association.
    "This could have a very serious impact on the flow of fresh fruits and vegetables to American stores in the next several months," said Puglia, who estimated the change could prevent tens of thousands of temporary farmworkers from coming to Western states — about 50 percent of the total H-2A workforce. "It's the only life raft for growers who are short on labor."

    March and April are the busiest time of the year for the H-2A program, as it is planting season in most parts of the country, said Michael Marsh, president and CEO of the National Council of Agricultural Employers, which represents growers.
    "If this continues, we will have a worker shortage that will ultimately filter up through the supply chain to the consumer," Marsh said. "The last thing that anyone wants is to have food shortages in grocery stores."

    Industry groups are pushing for the federal government to prevent such outcomes by finding a way to conduct the H-2A visa interviews without putting any staff at risk, such as doing the interviews remotely or through glass, Puglia said.



    The U.S. Agriculture Department said that it was working with the State Department to "ensure minimal disruption" in the processing of H-2A applications. "This administration is doing everything possible to maintain continuity of this critically important program," a spokesperson said.
    The changes are not restricted to Mexico: In response to the pandemic, the State Department has suspended routine visa processing in all countries with a Travel Advisory of level 2, 3 or 4, which includes Brazil, Guatemala, China and Germany, the agency said.

    While the economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus will mean more Americans searching for work, industry groups are skeptical that they would replace the H-2A workers that farmers are counting on, given the temporary nature of the work in rural, often remote locations. Employers are only allowed to apply for H-2A visas after searching for local workers to fill the seasonal jobs

    While it's possible that domestic workers could take some of those jobs, "it's not something we've ever been able to count on," Puglia said.

    https://www.nbcnews.com/news/amp/ncn...mpression=true
    Last edited by GeorgiaPeach; 03-19-2020 at 08:08 PM.
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Beezer's Avatar
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    This is your wake up call Farmers.

    YOU need to automate and you need to write off the equipment.

    We do not want your cheap labor here anymore.

    So you can hire the homeless and provide a wage and housing, hire the low risk prisoners, or you can come up with Plan B, because we do not want this cheap labor coming here any more and WE foot the bill for it.

    You can't count on domestic workers because you pay no wage and you provide no acceptable housing.

    We pay for your EXPENSIVE produce, just not at the checkout stand. Your produce is not cheap!

    We pay for it through illegal immigration, anchor babies, their medical care, school, welfare, food stamps, crime, theft, rape, murder, gangs, car wrecks, courts, jail, lawyer and lawsuits. So no more free ride for you and the unintended consequences for the American people.

    Your cheap labor days are over, so you better find a solution to this problem.
    Last edited by Beezer; 03-19-2020 at 08:24 PM.
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    TO BECOME AN AMERICAN YOU MUST CHANGE YOUR VALUES ...NOT YOUR LOCATION

    STAY HOME AND BUILD AMERICA ON YOUR SOIL

  3. #3
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    12/23/2018

    California agricultural empire raises minimum hourly wage to $15, wine country $17

    ----------------------------------

    California Farmworkers to Get Overtime Pay After 8 Hours Under New Law

    www.wsj.com/.../california-farmworkers-to-get-overtime-pay-after-8-hours-under-new-l...
    Sep 12,
    2016 - SAN FRANCISCO—California agricultural workers will become the first in the U.S. to receive overtime pay if they work more than eight hours a day, under a law signed Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown.
    The law means that farmworkers in the state will be treated like employees in other industries, where overtime generally is paid after a standard eight-hour day...



    TO READ THE FULL STORY
    =================================



    Wages rise on California farms. Americans still don’t want the job

    3/17/2017
    Trump’s border crackdown may bring seismic changes to agriculture in the state, where workers already are in short supply

    By NATALIE KITROEFF AND GFFREY MOHAN
    MARC
    H 17, 2017 | REPORTING FROM STOCKTON, CALIF.

    A
    rnulfo Solorio’s desperate mission to recruit farmworkers for the Napa Valley took him far from the pastoral vineyards to a raggedy parking lot in Stockton, in the heart of the Central Valley.


    Solorio recruiting workers in Stockton


    Play Video

    Carrying a fat stack of business cards for his company, Silverado Farming, Solorio approached one prospect, a man with only his bottom set of teeth. He told Solorio that farm work in Stockton pays $11 to $12 an hour. Solorio countered: “Look, we are paying $14.50 now, but we are going up to $16.” The man nodded skeptically.

    Solorio moved on to two men huddled nearby, and returned quickly. “They were drug addicts,” he said. “And, they didn’t have a car.”


    Before the day was through, Solorio would make the same pitch to dozens of men and women, approaching a taco truck, a restaurant and a homeless encampment.

    Time was short: He needed to find 100 workers to fill his ranks by April 1, when grapevines begin to grow and need constant attention.


    Solorio is one of a growing number of agricultural businessmen who say they face an urgent shortage of workers. The flow of labor began drying up when President Obama tightened the border. Now President Trump is promising to deport more people, raid more companies and build a wall on the southern border.

    Workers prune grapevines at the Napa Valley vineyard of Silverado Farming. Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in Napa go for nearly $6,900 per ton, 10 times more than in San Joaquin County. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

    That has made California farms a proving ground for the Trump team’s theory that by cutting off the flow of immigrants they will free up more jobs for American-born workers and push up their wages.

    So far, the results aren’t encouraging for farmers or domestic workers.


    Farmers are being forced to make difficult choices about whether to abandon some of the state’s hallmark fruits and vegetables, move operations abroad, import workers under a special visa or replace them altogether with machines.


    Growers who can afford it have already begun raising worker pay well beyond minimum wage. Wages for crop production in California increased by 13% from 2010 to 2015, twice as fast as average pay in the state, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.


    Some farmers are even giving laborers benefits normally reserved for white-collar professionals, like 401(k) plans, health insurance, subsidized housing and profit-sharing bonuses. Full-timers at Silverado Farming, for example, get most of those sweeteners, plus 10 paid vacation days, eight paid holidays, and can earn their hourly rate to take English classes.


    But the raises and new perks have not tempted native-born Americans to leave their day jobs for the fields. Nine in 10 agriculture workers in California are still foreign born, and more than half are undocumented, according to a federal survey.

    Instead, companies growing high-value crops, like Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in Napa, are luring employees from fields in places like Stockton that produce cheaper wine grapes or less profitable fruits and vegetables.


    Growers who can’t raise wages are losing their employees and dealing with it by mechanizing, downsizing or switching to less labor-intensive crops.


    Jeff Klein is doing all of the above. Last year Klein, a fourth-generation Stockton farmer, ran a mental ledger, trying to sort out the pros and cons of persevering in the wine business or quitting. He couldn’t make the math work.


    Wineries pay Klein a tiny fraction of what they pony up for the same grape variety grown in Napa, and the rising cost of labor meant he was losing money on his vineyards. So in October, Klein decided to rip out 113,000 Chardonnay grapevines that once blanketed land his family has owned for decades. Now they lay heaped into hundreds of piles, waiting to be taken to the dump.


    Jeff Klein, a fourth-generation Stockton farmer, knew his vines were done for when California passed laws raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2023 and requiring overtime for field laborers. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

    “I try to make any decision I make not emotional.

    When you’re running a business, it has to be a financial decision,” he says, sifting through the mangled metal posts.


    Five years ago, Klein had a crew of 100 workers pruning, tying and suckering his grapevines. Wineries paid $700 for a ton of grapes, and Klein could make a solid profit paying $8 an hour, the minimum wage.


    Last year he could barely get together 45 laborers, and his grapes sold for only $350 per ton. Klein knew his vines were done for when California passed laws raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2023 and requiring overtime for field laborers.


    “There’s not enough guys, and everybody is fighting for everybody else’s guys,” he says. “In Napa and Sonoma, they’re getting $2,000 a ton [for grapes].

    So, those guys can afford to pay $15. For me, I’m just trying to break even.”


    California farmers can’t find enough laborers



    Play Video

    Although Trump earned Klein’s vote, he worries that recent executive orders ratcheting up deportation plans and calling for a wall are putting a chokehold on an already tight pool of workers.

    “That’s killing our labor force,” says the 35-year-old grower.


    Already, fewer Mexicans had been willing to risk border crossings as security and deportations escalated under the Obama Administration. At the same time, Mexico’s own economy was mushrooming, offering decent jobs for people who stayed behind.


    Klein says he’ll spend the next five years planting almond and olive trees, which require a fraction of the human labor.


    With the grapevines he has left, Klein is doing what he can to pare his crews. Last year, he bought a leaf puller for $50,000, which turns the delicate process of culling grapevine canopies into an exercise in brute force. The puller hooks onto a tractor and, like an oddly shaped vacuum cleaner, sucks leaves from grapevines.


    He used to spend $100 an acre culling the canopies, which allows the right amount of sunlight to hit the grapes and turn them into sugar balls. Now, he says,

    “It will cost me 20 bucks, and I can get rid of some labor.”


    Klein says he’ll spend the next five years replacing his 1,000 acres of grapevines with almond and olive trees, which require a fraction of the human contact to grow.


    About 80 miles west in Napa, growers aren’t facing quite the same challenge. Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in Napa go for nearly $6,900 per ton, 10 times more than in San Joaquin County.


    That’s also why Leovijildo Martinez clambers into a van around 4:40 a.m. every morning to travel from Stockton to the Napa Valley.

    By 6:30 a.m. he is on a Napa vineyard, and 12 hours later, he returns to his two-bedroom apartment.


    “You get home, you shower, you eat a couple of tortillas with whatever is here,” Martinez says. He gets to see his kids’ faces and give them a hug before turning in at 9:30 p.m. They still complain about not seeing him enough.


    “It’s hard for me as a man and as a father,” he says.


    Leovijildo Martinez, who commutes to the Napa Valley from Stockton each day, earns $19.50 an hour working vineyards that produce grapes for a winery whose bottles go for about $300. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

    Farmworker Leobijildo Martinez tends to the grapevines at Silverado Farming in Napa Valley. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

    Workers at Silverado Farming take a break. Full-timers at Silverado get benefits that include 10 paid vacation days, eight paid holidays and pay for taking English classes. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

    But the commute is paying off. A year ago, the 31-year-old from Mexico was earning $14.75 an hour doing the same work for a different Napa company.

    He joined Silverado in April and now he’s making $19.50 working vineyards that produce grapes for a winery whose bottles go for about $300.


    “Everything in Napa is different. They treat you differently there, they don’t pressure you, and they respect the law,” he says. “If you work here, in Stockton, you don’t have enough money.”


    According to the economic theory behind Trump’s immigration crackdown, Americans should be following Martinez’s van into the fields.


    “The law of supply and demand doesn’t stop being true just because you’re talking about people,” says George Borjas, a Harvard economist and prominent foe of unfettered immigration. “[Farmers] have had an almost endless supply of low-skill workers for a long time, and now they are finding it difficult to transition to a situation where they don’t.”


    Borjas believes the ones who reap the rewards of immigration are employers — not just farmers, but restaurant owners and well-to-do homeowners who hire landscapers and housekeepers. The people who suffer most are American workers, who contend with more competition for jobs and lower pay.


    But Silverado, the farm labor contracting company in Napa, has never had a white, American-born person take an entry-level gig, even after the company increased hourly wages to $4 above the minimum.

    And Silverado is far from unique.


    U.S. workers filled just 2% of a sample of farm labor vacancies advertised in 1996, according to a report published by the Labor Department’s office of inspector general. “I don’t think anybody would dispute that that’s roughly the way it is now” as well, says Philip Martin, an economist at UC Davis and one of the country’s leading experts on agriculture.


    Indeed, Chalmers R. Carr III, the president of Titan Farms, a South Carolina peach giant, told lawmakers at a 2013 hearing that he advertised 2,000 job openings from 2010 through 2012. Carr said he was paying $9.39, $2 more than the state’s minimum wage at the time.


    You don’t need a deep analysis to understand why farm work wouldn’t be attractive to young Americans— Philip Martin, agriculture expert

    He hired 483 U.S. applicants, slightly less than a quarter of what he needed; 109 didn’t show up on the first day. Another 321 of them quit, “the vast majority in the first two days,” Carr testified. Only 31 lasted for the entire peach season.

    Borjas, the Harvard economist, says that it may just be that wages are still too low.

    “Believe me, if the wages were really, really high, you and I would be lining up,” Borjas says.

    Or perhaps farms are just not a place where native-born Americans want to work. The job is seasonal, so laborers have to alternate between long stretches without any income and then months of 60-hour weeks. They work in extreme heat and cold, and spend all day bending over to reach vegetables or climbing up and down ladders to pluck fruit in trees.

    “You don’t need a deep analysis to understand why farm work wouldn’t be attractive to young Americans,” says Martin, the agriculture expert.


    If farmers upped the average wage to, say, $25 an hour, people born here might think twice. But that’s a pipe dream, many argue.

    “Well before we got to $25, there would be machines out in the fields, doing pruning or harvesting, or we would lose crops,” Martin says.

    Already, strawberry growers in Ventura are experimenting with robots that plant seedlings, and growers in Central Coast counties are culling, weeding and even harvesting heads of lettuce with machines. At the outer edge, engineers are trying to teach machines to pick fruit.


    Brad Goehring, a fourth-generation farmer, is re-engineering his vineyards so they can be harvested entirely by machines.


    The 52-year-old owns 500 acres of wine grapes in Lodi, near Stockton. He tends another 10,000 or so acres of vineyards that belong to several clients across Northern California.


    Being the boss used to be fun for Goehring, but his labor problems are wearying.


    In the last five years, he has advertised in local newspapers and accepted more than a dozen unemployed applicants from the state’s job agency.

    Even when the average rate on his fields was $20 an hour, the U.S.-born workers lost interest, fast.

    “We’ve never had one come back after lunch,” he says.

    For now, Goehring is betting his future on 10 floppy rows of Malbec vines. The vines, visible from the slender country road that borders Goehring’s house, were among his first experiments in mechanization.

    About five years ago, Geohring changed the wiring holding up parts of his vines so that no metal stakes exceed the height of the wire. The setup allows for a machine to prune the top of the vine, as well as both sides.

    Brad Goehring, a fourth-generation farmer, is re-engineering his vineyards so they can be harvested entirely by machines. Above, Goehring with a grape harvester. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

    “I think we can eliminate, I’m just guessing, 85% of the labor on these new vineyards,” he says, reducing pruning costs from $300 per acre, on average, to $80. He plans to keep spending more on machinery, like his $350,000 tractor-like vehicle that shakes grapes off the vine and catches them before they fall to the ground.

    Now, he’s replanting entire ranches for clients interested in machine-managed vineyards.

    Geohring’s long game is hundreds acres of wine grapes harvested without ever touching human hands. If that doesn’t work, he’d reluctantly replace it all with almonds.


    “If we have to, we’d go there,” he says. If filled with nut trees, his entire property could be managed, he says, by three employees.

    http://www.latimes.com/projects/la-f...s-immigration/

    Wages rise on California farms. Americans still don't want the jobs
    Last edited by JohnDoe2; 03-20-2020 at 12:47 AM.
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    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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