September 9, 2021

For Immediate Release

Contact: Michael Marsh, President and CEO
(202) 629-9320

NCAE Announces New Opportunity to Vaccinate Farmworkers

(Washington, D.C.) The National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE) announced today that the Council’s ongoing collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has resulted in another new opportunity to protect farmworkers from COVID-19.

“Earlier this year, NCAE members participated with the CDC in a pilot project to test H-2A workers for COVID and quarantine any infected workers in Mexico prior to transiting to their temporary jobs in the States,” noted Michael Marsh, President and CEO. “This pilot project was successful in identifying not only a very low incidence of infection (1.3% based on preliminary data), but also an opportunity to collaborate to protect farmworker health and protect U.S. public health.”

Subsequently, the successful CDC/NCAE collaboration resulted in an opportunity to vaccinate farmworkers in San Diego County after entry for agricultural positions in the United States from Tijuana. This latest opportunity capitalizes upon those prior positive outcomes and expands it.
Marsh stated that, “NCAE is partnering with the CDC and the National Center for Farmworker Health (NCFH) to help facilitate free COVID-19 vaccinations. This facilitation includes resources, training, and technical assistance to support COVID-19 mitigation strategies and vaccination efforts among agricultural workers.”
Agricultural employers interested in participating in this terrific opportunity should email NCAE’s Manager of Association Services Susan Lester at susan@ncaeonline.org or Matt Solberg, NCFH Partner Engagement Coordinator at solberg@ncfh.org for details.

“The safety of essential farmworkers is of paramount importance to agricultural employers and NCAE is excited about this new opportunity to assist farm and ranch families in protecting the workers who feed and clothe us from the deadly COVID pandemic, while protecting public health at the same time,” said Marsh.
NCAE is the national trade association focusing on agricultural labor issues from the employer’s viewpoint.

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September 1, 2021

For Immediate Release

Contact: Michael Marsh, President and CEO
(202) 629-9320

NCAE Files Inquiry with USDA

(Washington, D.C.) The National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE) filed an inquiry yesterday with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).   The Council has asked for response to questions and concerns regarding the USDA’s Annual Farm Labor Survey (FLS).

The FLS is used by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to establish the mandatory minimum wages agricultural employers must pay to workers employed under the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Visa program as well as any domestic workers employed in corresponding employment.  These mandatory minimum wages, referred to as the Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWRs) in the DOL regulations, are intended to prevent an adverse effect on domestic workers due to the employment of temporary foreign H-2A workers.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour.  The average AEWR required to be paid in the U.S. in 2021 under the H-2A program has been $14.62.

“Our members have become increasingly alarmed by the ever deepening disconnect from the market for agricultural labor and the results of the FLS used by the Department of Labor (DOL) to establish the AEWRs,” noted Michael Marsh NCAE President and CEO in the letter to Secretary Vilsack.  “Alarm over this disconnect has also been expressed by cooperative extension specialists, agricultural lenders, agricultural economists, and others with expertise in analysis of labor markets.”

The Council’s letter notes that the impact of this disconnect between the FLS results and U. S. labor markets is hindering U. S. agricultural production and creating new opportunities for foreign competitors to expand their displacement of U. S. produced agricultural products in the market.  Today over one-half of the fresh fruit and more than one-third of the fresh vegetables consumed in America are produced in another country.  This circumstance is making U. S. agriculture less sustainable in global markets and forcing U.S. families to be ever more reliant upon foreign producers for their food. The Council’s inquiry also points out that the forfeit of America’s food production capability to foreign competitors jeopardizes U. S. national security.

Marsh stated that, “NCAE has repeatedly petitioned the DOL to make the determination required by statute as to whether an adverse effect is visited upon domestic workers due to the employment of Temporary H-2A Agricultural Workers necessitating the imposition of AEWRs. The DOL has failed to entertain the petitioned for determination to the peril of U. S. agriculture.  Our inquiry seeks to find the reasons for this staggering disconnect so we can find a solution that allows American farmers and ranchers to again feed our nation.”

NCAE is the national trade association focusing on agricultural labor issues from the employer’s viewpoint.

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June 21, 2021

For Immediate Release

Contact: Michael Marsh, President and CEO
(202) 629-9320

NCAE Announces Opportunity to Vaccinate H-2A Temporary Ag Workers

(Washington, D.C.) The National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE) announced today that the Council’s ongoing collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has resulted in another opportunity to protect farmworkers from COVID-19.

“Earlier this year, NCAE members participated with the CDC in a pilot project to test H-2A workers for COVID and quarantine infected workers in Mexico prior to transiting to their temporary jobs in the States,” noted Michael Marsh, President and CEO. “This pilot project was successful in identifying not only a very low incidence of infection (1.3% based on preliminary data), but also an opportunity to collaborate to protect farmworker health and protect U.S. public health.”

Capitalizing on this previous partnership, the CDC has notified NCAE that the County of San Diego is providing free COVID-19 vaccines to H-2A workers crossing into the U.S. from Tijuana, Mexico at vaccination sites near the U.S.-Mexico border. The Johnson and Johnson vaccine will be offered, but the Pfizer-BioNTech or another vaccine may be offered upon request by a worker and depending on its availability.
“The safety of essential farmworkers is of paramount importance to agricultural employers and NCAE is very excited by this new opportunity to assist farm and ranch families in protecting the workers who feed and clothe us from this deadly pandemic while protecting public health at the same time,” said Marsh.
Agricultural employers interested in participating in this vaccine pilot program should email NCAE’s Manager of Association Services Nigel Bocanegra at nigel@ncaeonline.org for details on how to participate.

NCAE is the national trade association focusing on agricultural labor issues from the employer’s viewpoint.

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It is always important to bring focus to achieving a penultimate goal.

This mantra applies to many things in our lives. It applies to assuring we have properly irrigated and nurtured our crops prior to their harvest and kept the pests away. It applies to our physical training for a big race or diligent study for an important test. It applies to the spiritual and familial things we engage in which nourish our very soul.

Believe it or not, it also applies in the political world (as opposed to the real one) as we strive to pass critical legislation. Focus is important to achieving that penultimate goal.

Farmers and ranchers have been toiling for decades in Washington, DC, to pass important legislation securing a reliable workforce. They have left their land and their families to make the jaunt to the nation’s Capital to press their case for agricultural labor reform. They have watched as the challenges to sustaining their businesses with few of our neighbors willing to come out to the farm or ranch and help do the hard work of securing our nation. These hearty individuals have been making that jaunt for decades.

And, for decades, distractions from focus have led to an inability for agriculture to get to the goal of achieving a Presidential signature on a bill that will accomplish this needed reform. Agriculture must have that focus now.

The House of Representatives earlier this year once again passed the Farm Workforce Modernization Act. The bill was one of those too rare occasions in Washington, DC, where leadership emerges from both sides of the political spectrum to advance something for the good of our nation. The President indicated his support for agricultural labor reform in his recent address to Congress.

So right now, politically, there is an important component missing to achieving the goal of reform.

NCAE serves on the Steering Committee of the Agricultural Workforce Coalition (AWC). The AWC is working right now to resolve that missing political piece necessary to realize that penultimate goal. We have started conversations with the United States Senate to encourage a similar bipartisan effort to get us to the finish line. And we seem to be making progress, but we must hurry, as the clock is already ticking down to another election cycle.

A Senate bill, just like the legislation that emerged from the House, will be a compromise. NCAE is working collaboratively to see if we can achieve a bill that strongly considers the needs of agricultural employers. Of course, that is who we work for and we are proud of that responsibility.

A Senate bill must address reform measures for our existing workforce, but at the same time has to prepare us for a future flow of workers to do farm tasks that too few Americans are willing to do.

Like many businesspeople, I am always fascinated with numbers. You probably are too so I will share a few to add some context to this discussion.

The last US Census of Agriculture that was performed by the USDA was for 2017. The next one will be done in 2022. That Census indicated that, for 2017, there were 2.4 million hired agricultural workers in the US.

At the present time, annually, just north of 200,000 visas are issued for Temporary Ag Workers to come into the US as H-2A workers. It is important they do because, although agricultural jobs pay well (on average more than twice the federal minimum wage according to USDA), fewer and fewer domestic workers desire to come out to the farm or ranch to lend a hand.

The 2015-2016 National Ag Worker Survey (NAWS) which is done by the Department of Labor adds more context. The next Survey for 2017-2018 should be published any day. The NAWS points out that many domestic workers are quickly aging out of agriculture. The Survey also notes that of the existing domestic agricultural workforce, about half of the workers are absent proper authorization.

So, if we do the arithmetic, 2.4 million hired ag workers less 200,000 Temporary H-2A ag workers leaves a population of approximately 2.2 million domestic workers. And about half of those workers, or maybe 1.1 million, may be unauthorized. And all of the domestic ag workers, authorized and otherwise, are trending older.

Not a bright future if you are a farm or ranch family who needs workers.

Consequently, the Senate bill that will emerge from our effort must contain elements that assure the present workforce is maintained. Some existing ag workers will need a path to attain legal status. At the same time, a Senate bill must ensure that in the future, if a farm or ranch family needs someone to pitch in, they will be able to find a good employee ready, willing, and able to perform. That reformed future flow program must not be so unwieldy that it crushes the legacy family operations it is supposed to help.

NCAE is focused on achieving our goal. I hope you will help us bring focus to the politicians.

This was a long, cold COVID winter.

From late January until middle of March, the temperature rarely peeked above 40 degrees. The sun rarely broke through an overcast sky and a steady wind blew from the Northwest in the DC area.  My bicycle, leaning against the wall, languished from neglect.

But finally, a little bit of Spring’s promise poked its head out from the clouds and the wind simmered down too.  The sunshine warmed my spirit as it warmed the surroundings.

Although it was only 42 degrees, the forecast said 45 was on the way!  I pulled on winter gear, added air to my tires, filled my water bottle and cinched my helmet tight for my usual 20-mile ride.  At last!

I tore up the streets and charged the Virginia hills filling my lungs with air that now did not burn my lungs with cold.  I dodged other cyclists moving too slowly for my pace and cautiously avoided pedestrians on the path who were stretching their winter legs in glorious sunshine.  A cardinal flitted past annoying a blue jay who leapt in pursuit and I even saw a racoon rustling through the leaves still awake from its nightly foraging.

I turned northwest past the airport and rode along the Potomac headed for home.  It had been a terrific, quick ride and I felt melancholy to have it end so soon.

As I approached the Memorial Bridge underpass, I saw another cyclist emerge from it headed my way.  The path right there is a little treacherous as tree roots have pushed up the asphalt creating a hazard if you have too much speed.  The other rider seemed unaware.

Sure enough, I saw him hit those big bumps, lose control and tumble onto the asphalt, his momentum and the bike depositing him hard to the side of the path.

I hit my brakes and slowed, unclipping from my pedals.  I hollered asking the other rider if he was okay, concerned because he was not moving.

I laid my bicycle down and ran over to the other cyclist, now somewhat relieved because he had rolled himself to his side. I repeated my query as to whether he was all right as I picked up his bike and he pulled himself to his feet, bleeding from scrapes to his legs, elbow, and forearm.

He finally said, “Yeah, I’ll be okay.  What did I hit?”

I pointed out the bumps on the path partially obscured in the shade from the trees, just discernible in the sunlight. The other rider nodded, looked at me standing there still holding his bike and kind of sizing me up.

He said, “You’re not from around here, are you?”

I told him I lived just a couple of miles from there.  The other rider said thank you and thanks for stopping.  I asked if he was going to be all right and when he said yes, I hopped on my bike and continued toward home.

Over the last few miles, I thought about that incident and pondered why the other rider had thought I might not have been from around there.  Then, it struck me.

Having been raised in farm and ranch country, it is just in our nature to always stop and help someone in a tough situation.  Whether it might be someone who has had their car skid off the road in a snowstorm and you lend a hand getting them out of a drift or pitching in if someone must head to town to care for a sick relative but still needs to have irrigation water set.  Helping one another is just something you do.  Neighbors help neighbors.

In fact, Paul Harvey, the radio broadcaster from my youth talked of this rural American ethos in the iconic poem he delivered at the FFA Convention in Kansas City in 1978.  Where Harvey said, in part, “God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So, God made a farmer.”

And I am glad that he did.  Neighbors help neighbors.

Pass it along.

 

Seriously, what did they expect would happen?

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently analyzed the economic impact of the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 and found, to the surprise of no one in agriculture or any economist for that matter, that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour would result in the loss of 1.4 million American jobs.

So-called Progressives were stunned!  How could it be that the holy grail was anything else?

Markets, elegantly and effectively, allocate resources to their highest and best use within any economy.  Government interference in markets impedes market efficiency and should be avoided.  This is something widely understood by the people with “skin in the game” who employ agricultural workers.

Why do some policymakers have such difficulty understanding this?  Perhaps it is because they have spent their working years signing the back of a paycheck as opposed to an agricultural employer who signs the front.

I guess the notion sounds appealing.  Free money for doing the same work!  Hip, hip hooray!

Do not worry about the level of effort or initiative employed by the worker, just ask the government to impose a mandate and, like a flourishing twirl from a magician’s wand, abracadabra, all ills are cured!

Except, it does not work that way, regardless of the sleight of hand or diversion of attention employed by the magician.  Even when the magician is disguised as the government.

America’s farmers and ranchers are aware of this reality.  They have watched year after year after year as their input costs have risen, and the price they receive for their crop has diminished or stayed flat, their competitors have flourished.  Economics is not a magic trick.

Here is what I mean.

The United States has seen a flight of the agricultural production that feeds our nation to foreign competition.  As input costs, including labor, have reached unsustainable levels, the production and the infrastructure that supports it have sought a more friendly climate.  Members of the media are shocked when I relate to them in interviews, that today over half of the fresh fruit and a third of the fresh vegetables consumed in the U.S. are produced outside our borders.

This is not unlike what the U.S. experienced with the flight of manufacturing jobs to venues without our country.  As regulation and input costs made building automobiles in the United States profitless, production left.  Not only that, but quickly the supporting automotive parts manufacturing moved out as well.

Confused government policy, if not checked, is likely to do the same with agricultural production too.

In jobs where it becomes more cost effective to employ machines instead of people, the people lose their jobs.  Think about the grocery store or the gas station as examples of this.

The grocery stores where I shop have far more self-service kiosks for checkout than they have people checking out customers.  And often, the jobs bagging groceries are gone from the full-service aisles as well.

It is also a rarity these days to drive into a gas station and see someone hustling as I did in high school to pump the customer’s gas, wash their windows, check the oil and tire pressure, collect the payment and see the customer on their way.  Today, most gas is pumped self-service and the jobs that full-service supported are gone.

It would be a tragedy for the same to occur to the American farmer and rancher because of the tragedy that would be consequent to the American consumer and to America’s national security.

What did they expect would happen?