farmworkers

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.

Oregon adopts heat safety rule to protect farm labor and other workers

In the wake of a heat wave blamed for the death of a farmworker, Oregon adopted an emergency rule on Thursday that guarantees workers rest breaks in the shade and plenty of cool water to drink during hot weather. Farmworker advocates called for the passage of federal protections against heat stress on the job.

Supreme Court rules against union access to farm property

On a 6-3 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a California labor law on Wednesday that allowed union organizers onto an agricultural employer's property to enlist farmworkers to join the union. The 1975 law was a legacy of Cesar Chavez, a founder of the United Farm Workers union.

Stronger protections needed for farmworkers as pandemic stretches into second year, argue researchers

Farmworkers face serious occupational risks that the pandemic has only exacerbated, and better policies are needed to protect them from exposure to heat, chemicals, and Covid-19, say two new related reports on social and health conditions in the sector.

Report calls for better protections of farmworkers

The government should restrict the use of dangerous pesticides on the farm and establish standards that protect farmworkers from heat-related illnesses, said a report by the Center for Agriculture and Food Systems (CAFS) at Vermont Law School on Tuesday. The center said its review of federal …

For thousands of farmworkers, a dangerous — and now potentially deadly — commute

It’s 1 a.m. and the stars are out as hundreds of people shuffle slowly along the wall that forms the border with the U.S. in the small Mexican city of San Luis Río Colorado, Esther Honig reports in FERN's latest story produced with the Nation magazine. In heavy boots and wide-brimmed straw hats, almost everyone here is headed to work in the vegetable fields of Yuma County, Arizona. Bundled against the frigid November air in puffy coats and fleece blankets, they carry thermoses of hot coffee and mini coolers packed with breakfast and lunch, often small, tightly rolled meat burritos. The wait to get through the small port of entry averages two hours but on some days can take as many as four. (No paywall)

New map shows which states are vaccinating food workers

As the Covid-19 vaccine becomes more widely available, the workers who pick, pack, process, sell, and serve our food have been placed in a range of vaccination priority groups. With FERN's new map, you can search to see where these workers are currently eligible to be vaccinated and, where they're not, when they will become eligible. (No paywall)

House clears pathway for farm labor reform bill

The Democrat-controlled House put a bill giving legal status to undocumented farmworkers and streamlining the H-2A guestworker program on the legislative fast track on Tuesday. Party leaders hope to score a victory this week on a popular idea — an earlier version of the bill passed with bipartisan backing in 2019 — even as support for comprehensive immigration reform is lacking.

Lofgren and Newhouse try again on farm labor reform

Rebuffed by the Senate last year, two U.S. representatives on Wednesday reintroduced their bipartisan bill to create legal status for undocumented farmworkers and to streamline the H-2A visa program for guestworkers.

Meatpacking plants in the spotlight at House hearing

Meatpacking, poultry, and agricultural workers have faced "devastating" conditions during the pandemic, in part due to employers' and federal regulators' lax approach to worker safety, argued advocates during a hearing before a House Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday. The hearing comes as food system workers are becoming eligible to receive the Covid-19 vaccine in many states, but new outbreaks and cases of the virus continue to emerge in these crowded workplaces across the country. No paywall

Immigration bill offers path to citizenship for undocumented farmworkers

Democrats introduced companion bills in the House and Senate on Thursday for a comprehensive overhaul of U.S. immigration law. The bills, backed by President Biden, include an expedited three-year path to citizenship for some undocumented farmworkers.

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