Oh, the Horror!

California agriculture is a stroke of Gov. Jerry Brown's pen away from having to pay farmworkers overtime after 40 hours a week! Ag bigshots throughout the state are claiming that farmworkers will be the actual victims of this law because farmers will cut back on labor and cycle people out after 40 hours.
From the other side of their mouths, however, they have set up a terrific perpetual whine that there is a labor shortage in the fields due to immigration policies.
What's better than slavery? Undocumented workers you don't have to pay at all. Now, government people may be poking around to find out how much overtime was paid to whoever and, if there is at least some minimal enforcement of this law Brown might sign, more could be discovered about who gets paid what in the fields.
Jerry Brown in his first term as governor enacted the first labor relations board in the nation for farm labor, the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board.
Is this really such a threat to ag profits, guaranteed by the 2013 Farm Bill, that it will stimulate a new round of ag tech development. We hear of drones aiding irrigation strategies on farms too big for human management. We can imagine corporate farms using drones to spy on workers, but can drones pick peaches?

In an e-newsletter published over the weekend, the farm bureau argued that the proposed legislation would cause growers to cut workers' hours.
Steve Smith, a spokesman for the California Labor Federation, refuted those assertions.
Smith said similar arguments were offered by employers in other industries when legislation switched those industries to the standard eight hours in a day/40 hours in a week overtime rule.
He cited janitorial work and the car wash business as examples.
"This is the type of argument that we've seen historically from businesses whenever a wage increase is proposed," Smith said. "Rarely if ever does it end up happening that workers are less well off than before."
Smith said the bill is a "basic, fundamental measure of equality." -- Seth Nidever, Hanford Sentinel, Aug. 23, 2016

Fresno Bee
Assembly passes bill to expand overtime pay for farmworkers
By Andrea Castillo
The California Assembly voted 44-32 on Monday in favor of a bill that would make California the first in the country to give farmworkers the same overtime pay afforded to people in other industries, effectively reversing a decades-old practice of exempting field hands from wage rules.
The bill already had cleared the state Senate, so now it goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, who hasn’t said whether he will sign it.
Republican Devon Mathis of Visalia, the Assembly Agriculture Committee vice chairman, said the outcome actually will hurt, not help, farmworkers.
“Over the weekend I met with farmworkers throughout my district in the fields they work, and I was touched by their stories and how important these jobs are to them, their families, and their future,” Mathis said. “Everyone I spoke to asked me to vote against this bill and they understood that if AB 1066 passed, it would equal lost hours and wages for them.”
Others applauded the vote. Marc Grossman, United Farm Workers union spokesman, said about 250 farmworkers witnessed the historic vote in the Assembly on Monday.
“This was historic because it remedies a 78-year-old injustice that farmworkers were excluded from overtime pay after working eight hours. Yes, it is about money, but the greater principle is that this is a step towards being treated as equals,” Grossman said. “And we want the governor to hear the same case that moved the Senate and Assembly. It is time to right an old wrong.”
George Radanovich, president of the California Fresh Fruit Association, said the vote illuminates an “over-influence of United Farm Workers on the Legislature.” Radanovich said farmers can’t pass costs onto the consumer because they have no control over the market. He said the overtime decision will be oppressive on the Valley’s top industry.
“Most people who voted for it grew up on asphalt and cement,” he said.
California is one of four states already requiring overtime pay for agriculture workers. In 1976, the state Industrial Welfare Commission ordered extra wages for farm laborers after more than 10 hours a day or more than 60 hours a week.
AB 1066 would expand that to bring it more in line with other industries, offering time-and-a-half pay for working more than eight hours in a day or 40 in a week and double pay for working more than 12 hours a day. The pay boosts would kick in incrementally over four years, and the governor could suspend them for a year if the economy falters.
The bill voted on Monday differed slightly from the original version, having been amended to allow smaller farms more time to implement the change. In an olive branch to opponents, this version of the bill would give farms with 25 or fewer employees until 2022 to start complying, while larger farms would need to start paying more in 2019.
The vote largely split along party lines. Central San Joaquin Valley Republicans Jim Patterson of Fresno, Frank Bigelow of O’Neals, Adam Gray of Merced and Mathis of Visalia voted against it; freshman Joaquin Arambula of Kingsburg voted for it.
All 38 Democrats who voted for the bill previously were joined by one Republican, Eric Linder of Corona, and five Democrats who had either opposed the measure in June or not cast a vote.
Philip Martin, a farm labor expert at University of California, Davis, said there isn’t reliable data on average working hours for farm laborers. He said it’s known that equipment operators, dairy workers and irrigators have long hours – especially the latter, because farmers are more likely to pay overtime than buy more equipment. He said many harvest workers put in fewer than eight hours a day but work during the weekend.
Harold McClarty, owner of HMC Farms, grows table grapes and stone fruit. He employs around 1,500 workers during peak production. McClarty said overtime, combined with minimum wage increases and piece-rate legislation, means he will have to decrease workers’ hours and look toward other solutions such as growing different commodities that can be mechanically harvested.
“When we’re doing grapes and it gets hot, it’s six hours (a day). When it gets cooler we go to 10,” he said. “We’re not going to do that anymore.”
It’s hard to say how Brown will act on the measure. His record on labor and farmworker issues is mixed. He signed the landmark Agricultural Labor Relations Act when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983, and frequently has mentioned his personal relationship with Cesar Chavez, the late labor leader.
But Brown often has sided with industry interests since returning to office, at times infuriating farmworker advocates. In 2011, the UFW protested Brown when he vetoed a bill that would have made it easier to unionize farmworkers, though Brown later signed a compromise bill.

Los Angeles Times
California lawmakers expect another showdown on overtime pay for farmworkers
Jazmine Ulloa
On the floor of the California Assembly in June, lawmakers voiced passionate but opposing stances on whether to expand overtime pay for farmworkers.
They quoted scripture. They called upon their own experiences on family farms. They turned to the historic exploitation of black, Latino and Asian laborers in the fields.
The moment was historic for advocates and lobbyists who remember the movement to establish farm workers’ rights in the 1960s and ‘70s: Cesar Chavez walking alongside civil leaders and workers on a pilgrimage to Sacramento, Bobby Kennedy standing with farmworkers in Delano. 
In those days, the emotional appeals occurred outside the state Capitol. In June, the fervor had moved to the Assembly chamber, where AB 2757, which would have phased in new overtime rules for agricultural employees, died four votes short of the majority needed to pass.
“I was devastated,” Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) said. “This is really about whether people who are doing the hardest, most backbreaking work are finally — after decades and centuries of being treated differently in California — going to be seen as equal under the law.”
Updates on California politics: Lawmakers send gun measures to Gov. Brown, initiative on parole overhaul makes the Nov. 8 ballot
Gonzalez revived the legislation two weeks later by amending an unrelated bill, AB 1066, that’s now pending in the Senate. The upper house, controlled by liberal Democrats who are generally supportive of farm worker rights, may consider the bill as soon as Monday. 
But lawmakers say the most intense debate will once again unfold among Gonzalez’s Democratic colleagues in the Assembly, where the demographics have changed, but where powerful agricultural interests remain. 
“I am hopeful that it will get out of the Senate without too much problem,” Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) said. “But it will be a tough vote, a close vote in the Assembly.”
The proposal would roll out new rules for farmworker overtime in 2019, lowering the current 10-hour-day threshold for overtime by half an hour each year until it reaches the standard eight-hour day by 2022. It also would phase in a 40-hour standard workweek for the first time. The governor would be able to suspend any part of the process for a year depending on economic conditions. 
The United Farm Workers association, which sponsored the bill, says it addresses an injustice first inflicted on farmworkers nearly eight decades ago. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 excluded all agricultural workers, the majority of whom at the time were African American, from minimum wage and overtime standards.
In California, the Legislature exempted farmworkers from earning overtime pay in 1941. That prohibition remained unchanged until 1976, when the state Industrial Welfare Commission ordered overtime pay for farmworkers after 10 hours on the job on any single day and 60 hours in a week. Hourly workers in other jobs across the state receive overtime after eight hours a day and 40 hours a week.
There have been fights over the issue twice before in recent years. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a similar overtime bill in 2010. Another bill in 2012 passed through both houses of the Legislature but was killed when it came back to the Assembly for a final vote.
Labor rights advocates say that although the momentum of the Cesar Chavez days is past, the chances of success in expanding overtime for farmworkers are greater than in previous years. At the national level, there is a growing recognition that workers at the lowest levels of society need higher wages to survive, they argue, and the bill has drawn support from a diverse coalition of political leaders and organizations, including Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
The makeup of the Assembly has also shifted, as more Latinos represent major agricultural districts and thus might bring a perspective once missing in the legislative debate — namely, that of family members or friends who have toiled in the fields.
“Through the years, the idea of excluding agricultural workers from labor protections has become less and less palatable, especially because we know how difficult the work is and how difficult those conditions are,” said Maria Ontiveros, a law professor at the University of San Francisco.
Even so, opposition to an expansion of farmworker overtime remains strong. Prominent business groups, led by the California Farm Bureau Federation and a coalition of agricultural producers, have thrown their political weight against it, saying the legislation saddles farmers and growers with higher costs.
Opponents said farmers in the state’s $54-billion industry are “price takers” — as opposed to “price setters” — who must accept the prevailing prices of products subject to the whims of the weather and international markets.
Greater burdens on them, they said, could lead to higher food prices and spur some growers to leave California.
Weighing the economic impact of the bill is difficult, as researchers say there is limited data on the hours worked by the roughly 829,000 farmworkers in California, more than 90% of whom are Latino and half of whom are brought to farms by crop support services, typically labor contractors. 
But farmer associations said the bill could backfire on tens of thousands of agricultural workers who could see their paychecks cut as farmers seek to avoid paying overtime by limiting work hours and hiring more workers.
Eight Democrats voted against the overtime pay legislation in June and seven abstained, even after Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) rose on the floor to urge legislators to support it. Some have not changed their stance.
Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) said he is opposed to adding another layer of cost on the agricultural community without addressing both burdensome regulations and the state’s ongoing water crisis.
“If we are going to move on the overtime issue, we should be moving a comprehensive package of bills that support the agricultural community,” he said. “No relief on water, no relief on regulation — it is not good enough.”
Gonzalez, whose role as chair of the Appropriations Committee often puts her in disagreements with colleagues over which bills live or die, faces a steep political climb to win the necessary votes.
To spark support for AB 1066, she and more than 100 religious leaders, families and elected officials embarked on a 24-hour fast this week. Another 2,000 members from the Courage Campaign, a statewide liberal activist group, joined the effort, which concluded Wednesday with prayers and songs in a Sacramento church.
For Gonzalez, the bill is personal, she said. Her grandfather was a bracero, a seasonal agricultural laborer, and her father worked in strawberry fields near Oceanside when he first came to the United States.
AB 1066 eases in the additional overtime pay rules, she said.
“It’s a very slow process by which we get to an eight-hour day,” Gonzalez said. “I think as we see temperatures rise in those fields, as we see larger and larger farms operating, the time has come to do this.”
On the Assembly floor in June, dozens of farmworkers watched from the balcony as lawmakers clashed on whether that was true.
Some Assembly members pointed to California’s existing laws, saying it is one of a handful of states that already provide some form of overtime.
Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Nicolaus), whose family farms is in rural Sutter County, said the bill was not needed and would harm small farms like his, where workers were part of the family.
“My family has worked the land for six generations,” he said. “You treat your workers fairly. You pay them a fair wage.”
But Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula (D-Kingsburg), who quoted from the Bible, said that as a doctor, he had treated farmers who were in poor health after working too long under the sun.
“After much thought, I decided to support this,” he said. “I realized this was a measure of equity.”

Fresno Bee
Farmworkers overtime pay proposal would devastate Valley ag 
Devon Mathis
The past several years have been difficult for agricultural workers in California, especially because of the drought and limits on water use. It’s estimated that the drought cost the ag industry nearly $2.7 billion and 21,000 jobs in 2015.
One in five jobs in the San Joaquin Valley is directly related to farming. Lower production and fewer ag jobs in California would have a ripple effect throughout the state, nation and world.
Local farmers are looking for some relief from Sacramento in these tough times, but instead the Legislature is poised to make the problem worse.
Assembly Bill 1066 by San Diego Democrat Lorena Gonzalez would devastate the ag industry and make it difficult to find enough workers to help on farms throughout the state.
The misguided proposal would reduce the overtime threshold for farmworkers by 20 hours per week to 40 hours. This legislation is unnecessary and unparalleled. Federal law at present exempts farmworkers from overtime pay.
The bill, which the author says is pro-farmworker, would actually take away their ability to earn a living. With minimum wage going up, that means the average farmworker could lose about $1,200 per month in wages if he or she is not allowed to work 60 hours, as they now do. Seasonal employees, who are crucial during harvest season, could see their earnings decrease by as much as 28 percent.
Ag work is hard work, that’s for sure. When production is at its peak, that’s when there’s the greatest need for strong labor in the fields. We should allow farmers to work with their teams to ensure the job is done. The current system allows farmworkers to have flexibility to go where there’s work and they can get paid for their labor.
The ag industry has been delivering food for the country and rest of the world for decades. Now is not the time for micromanagement from the government.
Californians and farmers cannot afford to have its farms left in ruin by even more unrealistic regulations. Farms in California already have the highest regulatory costs in the country. In California, industrial electricity costs are more than 60 percent higher than the national average, gasoline costs almost one-third higher, and workers’ compensation premium rates are higher than anywhere else in the country.
The state also has unique restrictions on the use of crop protection tools. Farmers must also keep fertilizer from going below a plant’s roots. If that isn’t enough, water supply costs are increasing because less surface water is available.
 Hanford Sentinel
Kings supervisors oppose ag overtime bill
Seth Nidever



State lawmakers are considering a bill that would put farm laborers on the same eight hours a day/40 hours a week overtime schedule as other industries in California.


HANFORD – Kings County supervisors are unanimously opposing a farmworker overtime bill that would put farm laborers on the same eight hours in a day/40 hours in a week overtime schedule as workers in other California industries.
Currently, farmworkers are on a different setup: They work up to 10 hours a day and 60 hours a week before overtime pay kicks in.
The controversial bill, AB 1066, passed the Senate 21-14 on Monday, sending it back to the Assembly, where it is likely to face difficulty passing.
A virtually identical bill was narrowly defeated in the Assembly earlier this year.
AB 1066 is backed by labor organizations, including the United Farm Workers and the California Labor Federation.
County supervisors mailed a letter to state Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, and Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, last week that cited the "unpredictable nature and seasonality of agriculture production" in arguing for the current 10 hour a day/60 hours a week standard for farm work.
In addition to opposition from Kings County supervisors, the bill is also being opposed by the Kings County Farm Bureau.
In an e-newsletter published over the weekend, the farm bureau argued that the proposed legislation would cause growers to cut workers' hours.
Steve Smith, a spokesman for the California Labor Federation, refuted those assertions.
Smith said similar arguments were offered by employers in other industries when legislation switched those industries to the standard eight hours in a day/40 hours in a week overtime rule.
He cited janitorial work and the car wash business as examples.
"This is the type of argument that we've seen historically from businesses whenever a wage increase is proposed," Smith said. "Rarely if ever does it end up happening that workers are less well off than before."
Smith said the bill is a "basic, fundamental measure of equality."
Kings County Supervisor Craig Pedersen, who has farmed in the Lemoore area, said the agriculture industry is different and that the bill would hurt farmworkers as well as many growers.
Pedersen, echoing the farm bureau's position, predicted that growers would cut hours.
He said commodity prices for crops are set by a competitive world market and that growers cannot pass increased costs on to consumers.
"[The bill] would cause a lot of damage," he said. "It's made out to be positive, but it hurts the people it intends to help and it hurts the businesses that employ them. It's an all-around lose-lose."
Pedersen said the bill would favor more consolidation in the industry and hurt smaller operations more than bigger ones.
He cited Paramount Farms, a huge, vertically-integrated agribusiness operation based in Kern County that Pedersen believes would be better able to handle cost increases under the bill than smaller farms.
Pedersen said a large company like Paramount has access to a bigger labor pool than smaller operations.
"This [bill] is just promoting corporate agriculture," he said. "It just promotes this transition to a more corporate-based condensation."



Farmers Brace For Labor Shortage Under New Immigration Policy
Associated Press
Farmers already scrambling to find workers in California — the leading U.S. grower of fruits, vegetables and nuts — fear an even greater labor shortage under President Barack Obama's executive action to block some 5 million people from deportation.
Thousands of the state's farmworkers, who make up a significant portion of those who will benefit, may choose to leave the uncertainty of their seasonal jobs for steady, year-around work building homes, cooking in restaurants and cleaning hotel rooms.
"This action isn't going to bring new workers to agriculture," said Jason Resnick, vice president and general counsel of the powerful trade association Western Growers. "It's possible that because of this action, agriculture will lose workers without any mechanism to bring in new workers."
Although details of the president's immigration policy have yet to be worked out, Resnick said the agricultural workforce has been declining for a decade. Today, the association estimates there is a 15 to 20 percent shortage of farmworkers, which is driving the industry to call for substantial immigration reform from Congress, such as a sound guest worker program.
"Hopefully there will be the opportunity for comprehensive immigration reform," said Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture. "That's the right thing to do for this country."
California's 330,000 farmworkers account for the largest share of the 2.1 million nationwide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Texas comes in a distant second with less than half of California's farmworkers.
Once Obama's executive action starts going into effect next year, it will protect the parents of legal U.S. residents from deportation and expand a 2012 program that shields from deportation people brought into the U.S. illegally as children.
Manuel Cunha, president of the Fresno-based Nisei Farmers League, estimates that 85 percent of California's agricultural workers are using false documents to obtain work.
Cunha, who has advised the Obama administration on immigration policy, figures that 50,000 of the state's farmworkers who may benefit from the president's executive action could leave the fields and packing houses in California's $46.4 billion agricultural industry.
"How do I replace that?" he said. "I think we're going to have a problem."
Many farmworkers are paid above minimum wage, earning more hourly than they will in other industries, but he said that workers that leave will gain year-around jobs and regular paychecks, rather than seasonal employment.
While farmers may face a setback, Obama's order is good for workers who support families and fear that any day they may be pulled over driving to work and deported, said Armando Elenes, national vice president of the United Farm Workers labor union.
With proper documentation, workers will feel empowered and be more valuable, Elenes said. Confronted with abuse at work — such as being paid less than minimum wage or denied overtime — workers will be able to challenge their employer or leave, he said.
In addition, their newfound mobility will create competition for farmworkers and potentially increase wages, Elenes said, adding, "It's going to open up a whole new world for workers. A lot of times, if you're undocumented, you feel like you're stuck."
Ed Kissam, an immigration researcher at the immigrant advocacy group, WKF Giving Fund, said he doubts a significant number of farmworkers will leave the industry. Farmworkers often lack the language, education and technical skills to move up the employment ladder, he said. "Surely some will," Kissam said. "It's not going to be a mass exodus."
Edward Taylor, a researcher at the University of California, Davis, said a shortage of farmworkers could be exacerbated by a dwindling flow of workers from Mexico, the largest supplier of labor to the United States. Taylor said lower birthrates, more industrial jobs and better schools in rural Mexico are cutting into the supply of farmworkers.
"U.S. and Mexican farmers have to compete for that diminishing supply of farm labor," he said. "Once this change hits, there's no going back."
Central Valley farmer Harold McClarty of HMC Farms, who hires a thousand workers at harvest time, said there is no replacing the human hand for picking the 50 varieties of peaches he grows. His workers pick a single tree five or more times, making sure the fruit they take is ripe.
"We haven't found any machines that can do anything like that," he said. "You can't just pick the whole tree."



Labor Visa Backlogs Threaten 2016 Crops, Farm Bureau Calls for Action
From: American Farm Bureau
Agency delays in processing visas for workers who tend and harvest America’s food crops are fast approaching crisis proportions, all but guaranteeing that crops will rot in the field on many farms this year, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said.
Communications with state Farm Bureaus across the nation have revealed worker shortages in more than 20 states.
 “Many farmer members have called us and state Farm Bureaus asking for help,” Duvall said. “They face serious hurdles in getting visas for workers in time to tend and harvest this year’s crops. Paperwork delays have created a backlog of 30 days or more in processing H-2A applications at both the Department of Labor and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.”
Farmers depend on the H-2A agricultural visa program to fill gaps in the nation’s ag labor system, but, Duvall said, the program is far from perfect. Processing and procedural delays, such as the government’s use of U.S. mail instead of electronic communications, are leading to losses from unharvested crops.
Duvall and a group of other farmers and policymakers made his case on a conference call for the media. Also joining him were Gary Black, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Agriculture; Jamie Clover Adams, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development; and farmers Bill Brim from Georgia, Carlos Castaneda from California and Jen Costanza from Michigan. Each of the farmers described the challenges they face with securing adequate workers to tend and harvest this year’s crops.
Duvall said the Labor Department too often fails to comply with rules that require it to respond to farmers’ requests before crews are needed.
“Crops can’t wait on paperwork,” Duvall said. “DOL is routinely failing to approve applications 30 days prior to the day farmers need workers. That delay, coupled with delays occurring at USCIS, places farmers in an impossible situation. We’ve heard from members who are already missing their window of opportunity to harvest. They are already facing lost revenue.”
Duvall repeated AFBF’s call for Congress to pass responsible immigration reform that provides farmers access to a legal and stable workforce. He also outlined possible solutions to the challenge, including modernizing agency H-2A approval procedures. He said DOL and USCIS both rely on sending documents to farmers by regular mail, which he called “unacceptable in 2016.”
Duvall said AFBF is also working with the Agriculture Department “to be an advocate for farmers and take whatever steps it can to ensure farmers get the workers they need to tend and harvest this year’s crops.”
Farm Bureau Newsroom



Will Rodger
(202) 406-3642


Kari Barbic
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Farm Labor Shortage Vexes Farmers http://www.fb.org/newsroom/news_article/453/
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 30, 2016 - A new video produced by the American Farm Bureau Federation shines a spotlight on the frustrations of the nation's farmers in finding workers to harvest their crops. While the video highlights peach production in Georgia, it also outlines the scope of the farm labor problem across the U.S.
Hiring a seasonal skilled workforce to bring crops in from the fields to America's tables has proved to be difficult if not impossible for farmers. That's why many farmers rely heavily on a program called H-2A, through which the federal government grants foreign nationals short-term visas to help harvest crops.
"This is a serious issue for farmers across America," said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. "If you have a crop that's ready and your harvest window is narrow and your workers show up late - you're going to lose your crop."
"We're going to have to make a choice," Duvall added. "We either have to import our labor - workers to harvest our crops - or we'll have to import our food."
An informal survey of state Farm Bureaus revealed that farmers in at least 22 states using the H-2A program have been affected by administrative delays that have caused workers to arrive days and even weeks late - leading to a variety of fruits, vegetables and other crops rotting in the field.
The situation is dire for Georgia peach farmer Robert Dickey. He and numerous other farmers have found there's simply too much red tape, too much paperwork and too many delays associated with the H-2A program.
"It could cost us our farm in one season," Dickey said.
Farm Bureau is calling for Congress to pass responsible immigration reform that provides farmers access to a legal and stable workforce.