DHS streamlines protections against deportation
In a step hailed by the United Farm Workers union, the Homeland Security Department announced a streamlined and expedited process to protect non-citizen workers from immigration-related retaliation during labor disputes with their employers. "Unscrupulous employers who prey on the vulnerability of non-citizen workers harm all workers and disadvantage businesses who play by the rules," said Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Last-chance farmworker reform bill is proposed
Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet announced a new farmworker reform bill on Thursday that would give legal status to undocumented farmworkers and reform the H-2A guestworker program, including, for the first time, visas for year-round agricultural work.
‘We need action’ by Senate on farm labor reform, say advocates
With congressional adjournment on the horizon, a parade of farmers, food processors, and lawmakers called on the Senate on Wednesday to get to work on legislation to give legal status to undocumented farmworkers and streamline the H-2A guestworker program. The House passed an ag labor bill 19 months ago, but nothing has emerged from behind-the-scenes negotiations in the Senate on the issue.
USDA awards $671 million for pandemic payments to frontline workers
Fourteen nonprofit organizations and the Cherokee Nation will distribute $671 million in pandemic payments of $600 per person to farmworkers, meatpacking employees and frontline grocery workers, said the Agriculture Department on Tuesday.
At White House conference, Biden lays out plan to end hunger by 2030
America can end hunger by 2030 by fighting poverty, expanding access to healthy food, and reorienting healthcare toward preventing diet-related diseases, said President Biden on Wednesday. Framing the task in epic terms, he called on government and society to step up. “This could be a giant step,” he said. “This could remind us who the hell we are.” (No paywall)
Gov. Newsom won’t support farmworker union voting bill
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday he “cannot support” a bill that many farmworkers say would prevent their employers from intimidating them during union elections, disappointing the United Farm Workers union, which had launched a weeks-long march to the state capitol in support of the legislation.(No paywall)
Ag employers struggling to retain workers, says report
Foreign-born workers are an essential part of the U.S. food supply chain, and if the nation wants to stabilize food prices, it’s going to need a lot more of them, according to new research released this week by the American Immigration Council. The group, which advocates for immigrants throughout the U.S., found that ag employers are struggling to retain enough workers amid a national labor crisis that is fueling higher prices at grocery stores.
Senate, mulling H-2A reform bill, stuck on rights provision
The Senate is reviewing bipartisan legislation that would overhaul and expand the nation’s H-2A program, which provides temporary work visas to hundreds of thousands of agricultural workers. Legislators who support the bill argue it would provide farmers with a more stable workforce and lower food prices for consumers. But some Republican lawmakers are concerned that the legislation would grant farmworkers too many rights.
California weighs farmwork in wildfire areas
As California braces for another brutal fire season, farming communities across the state are weighing what it will take to save their harvests — and who, exactly, should bear the brunt of the risks. In places like Sonoma County, those risks are increasingly shouldered by low-wage immigrant farmworkers who pick grapes and milk cows inside the county’s evacuated areas during wildfires. Their work is facilitated by Sonoma’s “ag pass” program, which allows farmers to bring workers into areas that other residents have been told to flee. (No paywall)
The farmworkers in California’s fire evacuation zones
In 2020, as thousands of residents fled Sonoma County because of wildfires, hundreds of farmworkers stayed behind and continued working under a little-known government "ag pass" program, Teresa Cotsirilos reports in FERN's latest story, produced in collaboration with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting and the radio show World Affairs. No Paywall
Agriculture can be climate leader with ‘build back’ funding, says Vilsack
The farm sector would gain $27 billion for climate mitigation, including payments for planting cover crops, from the social welfare and climate change bill passed by the House, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Agriculture can lead the way in the fight on climate with climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices that sequester carbon, reduce emissions and create new and better market opportunities for producers."
U.S. let in record 317,000 agricultural guestworkers
With American farmers increasingly relying on foreign agricultural laborers, the Labor Department approved 317,619 seasonal guestworkers during the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, up 15 percent from a year earlier, a farmworker advocacy group said on Tuesday. No paywall
‘Build back’ bill offers work authorization for undocumented immigrants
Hundreds of thousands of undocumented farmworkers could gain employment and travel authorization under provisions in the social welfare and climate change bill drafted by House Democrats. But while the proposal would relieve fears of deportation, it was far less than the pathway to citizenship that is the goal of some activists.
Labor Department starts work on heat safety rule
Following what the White House called "a dangerously hot summer," Labor Secretary Marty Walsh announced on Monday the first step toward a federal standard to protect workers from exposure to excessive heat on the job. The work on a heat safety rule would be part of a government-wide initiative to lessen the impact of hotter weather, a feature of climate change.
Vilsack sets $700-million program to help farm and meatpacking workers
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new $700 million grant program to provide direct financial relief to U.S. farm and meatpacking workers hit hard by Covid-19. But it was unclear whether undocumented immigrants, who make up roughly half of all farmworkers and nearly a quarter of meatpacking workers, would be eligible.
Republicans oppose ag labor bill as ‘amnesty’
Senate Republicans threw up barriers on Wednesday to a House-passed bill that would give legal status to undocumented farmworkers and streamline the H-2A guestworker program. They called for action first to tighten control of the U.S.-Mexico border and vowed to vote against "amnesty" for undocumented farmworkers, who are estimated to make up half of the agricultural labor force.
Essential work, low wages on the farm
Farmworkers earned less than 60 percent of what comparable workers did off the farm last year, says an Economic Policy Institute blog. The wage gap in 2020 was virtually unchanged from 2019.