It’s been quite some time since I posted. Been a LITTLE BIT busy! The US Custom Harvesters convention was last week (March 1, 2, & 3) and turned out to be an exceptional event! Hmmm….was I really there or was it just a dream? What an OUTSTANDING bunch of people involved in making everything happen – from the volunteers, to members of the Board of Directors, to the vendors, to all the members of the association! If you were there, you know what I’m talking about – if you weren’t…there’s always next year! Go to the website www.uschi.com to view the pictures and some video (actually, I don’t know if the 2012 pictures have been uploaded yet). There are pictures on the USCHI Facebook page.
I got really excited when I walked outside just a couple of minutes ago and wanted to share that excitement with you. Spring is here!!!!
See what I found:
I’ve always said, “The best part of winter is spring”! It’s all uphill from here (don’t forget to set your clocks and watches and “spring” ahead tonight) There’s a daffodil that is nearly ready to bloom, too. This just makes me smile!
Now, on to something a little more serious. Jim and I don’t have to hire employees so what I’m about to talk about next doesn’t apply to us. The country has a Temporary Guest Worker program – H-2A, H-2B and J-1 – which is in dire need of a fix! Last month, I went to DC along with other members of U.S. Custom Harvesters to attend the National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE) annual meeting. Sometimes, the best way to learn about something or how something works is to jump into it head first. When you do this, expect to learn way more than you really want to.
Agriculture and the custom harvesting industry are being regulated more and more all the time. This scares me. Why? Because the government and the government agencies are going to regulate us all right out of a job. When this happens, where will your food come from? How will you know how your food is planted, grown and harvested? Frank Gasperini, Executive Vice President of NCAE says this:
“Our food WILL be grown, harvested, processed and prepared by immigrant’s hands – the important question for the future of America is whether we will find ways for this to be done LEGALLY in America or whether we will allow our food to be supplied from foreign countries? It is distressing that a federal program designed to assure American farmers sufficient and timely labor to plant, tend, and harvest seasonal and perishable crops; many of which feed the American people each day, has become so complicated, confusing, and unpredictable that farmers and even professional H-2A agents are routinely forced to hire lawyers to help them get through the process successfully. This is not what Congress intended when the program was instituted.”
Could this really happen, you ask? Yes, it could! H-2A, H-2B and J-1 visas allow foreign employees to come to America and fill the seasonal jobs that most people in this country either don’t want to fill or can’t. Employers submit applications and pay high fees to bring these foreign employees to do the jobs that can’t be filled. The government is working overtime at denying applications and making it nearly impossible to allow these workers to come to this Country. They reason that because of the high unemployment rate agriculture should be able to find suitable labor. Great idea – but it’s not working so well. “State work force agencies referred 36,000 domestic workers to H-2A employers. Only 5% worked through the contract period. Of the 20% of domestic workers who began work but did not work through the entire contract period, 59% quit, 15% were terminated for cause, 7% failed to produce acceptable work authorization documents and 16% left for misc. reasons. Only 3% left because there was no more work to be performed”. (This was taken directly from NCAE’s 2010 survey of H-2A employers)
No workers means food is left rotting in fields and on trees and custom harvesters are unable to find enough qualified employees to run their equipment.
Don’t get me wrong – I am NOT a believer of illegal workers or amnesty!!! As a matter of fact, that just “torks” me! Being here illegally is a crime and as far as I’m concerned everyone who crosses the border illegally needs to be caught and sent back. This country needs a Temporary Guest Worker program that works and will allow all guest workers to work in America legally. “Without dependable, predictable, and willing agricultural labor, there will be little domestic food production; leaving our nation’s food supply in the hands of a merciless global marketplace. Sound agricultural labor policy benefits growers, workers and the American public”. (NCAE)
Tomorrow afternoon, I will be packing my bag again and heading back to DC with two other members of the US Custom Harvesters’ Board of Directors. Our purpose for going this time will be to TRY to make our Legislative members on “the hill” understand how the deterioration of the H-2A program is affecting the custom harvesting industry. The USCHI motto currently is “We Harvest the Crops that Feed the World”. We’re hoping that it remains that way and won’t have to be changed to, “We Used to Harvest the Crops that Fed a Now Starving World”. Wish us luck!