Posts Tagged: farmworkers
Record-breaking heat led to 12 farmworker deaths in 2005, bringing the issue of heat-related illness to the forefront for California labor activists and legislators. New laws enacted since then call for employee and supervisor training, fresh water at work sights, access to adequate shade for rest and recovery periods and written documentation on site that provides information about the regulations.
As the hottest August on record comes to a close, the next essential task has become educating California’s diverse population of outdoor workers and their employers about the heat illness prevention rules, according to an article on HealthyCal.org.
At the heart of the educational efforts are “Train the Trainer” workshops in which representatives from UC Berkeley’s Labor Occupational Health Program along with UCLA's Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program, and UC Davis’ Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety train representatives from schools, advocacy organizations, cultural centers, churches and health centers who in turn reached out to thousands of outdoor workers in their respective communities, the article said.
Related to this story, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources has a Heat Illness Prevention page on its website with the following articles:
- Ten key points about heat stress
- UC gives tips for coping with heat stress
- Heat illness symptoms and first aid
- How heat affects the body
- Preventing heat-related illness among agricultural workers (pdf)
Visitors can also download bilingual (Spanish and English) heat illness prevention handouts from the website.
In 2011, of 753 heat enforcement inspections, 76 percent of employers were found to be compliant.
San Jose Mercury-News.
"(Border crossing) is more dangerous because of the drug cartels, our government is doing a better job of enforcing the borders and the Mexican economy is doing better," said Jim Lincoln, a vintner and former president of the Napa County Farm Bureau.
Phil Martin, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at UC Davis, paints a different picture. He estimates the yearly number of farm laborers has remained steady in the last decade at around 800,000 people after it had expanded in the 1990s.
Martin is skeptical of perennial farmworker shortage warnings, finding no signs of diminished crops or fewer workers in a 2007 report, but five years later he says the farming community has hit "a period of uncertainty."
Bakersfield Californian. The shift toward hiring seasonal workers through farm labor contractors is not new, said University of California Cooperative Extension specialist emeritus Howard Rosenberg, who has studied agricultural labor management for decades.
"(Use of farm labor contractors) has grown from the low 20 percents, to now over 40 percent," Rosenberg said, "and some people would say that it's now over 80 percent."
He said farm labor contractors can help growers avoid "transaction costs for hiring and firing." Employing middlemen who are theoretically experts at "dealing with the complex regulatory environment" is a way of outsourcing some of an organization's management burden.
Agricultural leader Ron Tyler dies
Ron Tyler, the director of UC Cooperative Extension in Santa Cruz County who retired in 1991, has passed away.
“I knew him for about 34 years and he was very dedicated to the ag industry, first being in his profession as the agricultural extension adviser for many years,” Santa Cruz County Farm Bureau executive director Jess Brown said. “In that role, not only did he interact with people in agriculture, but farmed and gave them advice.”
Stink bugs pose noxious challenge
The Business Journal
Native stink bugs don’t pose a great threat to local farmers because they have natural predators. But an invasive species that has wreaked havoc on some mid-Atlantic fruit orchards appears to be flitting toward the Golden State’s breadbasket.
“It’s spreading pretty rapidly,” said Walt Bentley, an entomologist with the University of California’s Integrated Pest Management Program. “Last year it seemed to have one of those population explosions.”
The threat to grapes is of critical concern in the leading grape-growing region in the nation. Stephen Vasquez, viticulture farm advisor for UC Cooperative Extension in Fresno, said stink bugs could wind up crushed by presses at wineries and “contribute to off flavors in the wine.”
Stink bugs also are a nuisance to homeowners, clustering in attics and hiding between any slender space, the way cockroaches do.
“As it gets cold they will start to overwinter in people’s houses. They just haven’t become established yet. I suspect it’s just a matter of time,” Vasquez said.
Despite the recession, and high levels of unemployment, American workers by and large do not want to labor on California farms, according to an Associated Press analysis.
Most Americans simply don't apply to harvest fruits and vegetables and the few Americans who do usually don't stay in the fields, wrote reporter Garance Burke.
The majority of farmers rely on illegal labor to harvest their crops, but they can also use the H-2A Guest Worker Program, which allows farmers to recruit foreign workers as long as they request the workers months in advance of the harvest season and can show that no Americans want the job.
However, Philip Martin, a UC Davis professor of agricultural and resource economics said that, said few farmers participate in the H-2A program.
"Recruitment of U.S. workers in this program doesn't work well primarily because employers have already identified who they want to bring in from abroad," the story quoted Martin. "I don't think a lot of U.S. workers are going out there looking for a seasonal job paying the minimum wage or a dollar more."
Potato harvest on a California farm.
One thing farmers apparently will not have to worry about during the upcoming growing season is a farm labor shortage. Slowdowns in the construction and food industries are turning many immigrant workers back to agriculture, according to a Los Angeles Times article published yesterday.
Reporter Jerry Hirsch wrote about a dramatic turnaround in what farmers considered a serious farmworker shortage three years ago. However, UC Davis agricultural economist Phil Martin offered the reporter a different view. He questioned whether the "shortage" was actually the result of a reluctance by farmers to raise wages enough to persuade people to do farm work
"You can't talk about need or shortage without talking about wages," Martin was quoted.
Farmers and agribusiness interests say they can't afford to pay much more than the minimum wage because of international competition, the story said.
"So what happens is that people move on to higher-paying jobs. Farm labor is a job, not a career. When people have other options, they get out of farm work. Construction is a frequent first step up the job ladder," Hirsch quoted Martin.
When higher-paying jobs become scarce, many laborers are forced back to the land.