Ag Labor Forum Focus: Fight For Your Farm

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A capacity crowd of agricultural employers gathered in mid-
September for the annual Agricultural Labor Relations Forum in Orlando to get industry updates and labor relations advice from experts. Presented by the Florida Specialty Crop Foundation, the gathering is in its 39th year. It presents workshops designed to help employers understand the myriad laws and regulations governing the agricultural workforce.

Forum participants packed meeting rooms — an indication that employers understand the vital importance of staying on top of the latest on the labor front. Topics ranged from broad overviews on issues like immigration, to detailed information on complying with government regulations such as wage and hour regulations, discrimination, and workers’ compensation.

Keynote speaker and labor attorney Monte Lake kicked off the forum with a report on where immigration legislation stands. Despite agriculture’s efforts during Congress’ August recess urging House members to pass comprehensive immigration legislation, the issue was overshadowed by the situation in Syria and questions over the debt ceiling.

Plenty Of Pain, Much To Gain

Breakout sessions included a presentation by representatives of the Department of Labor on enforcement priorities of its Wage and Hour Division, an overview of the new I-9 Form, a primer on government audits of employers, a panel discussion on workers’ compensation, a detailed look at how to navigate the H-2A guestworker visa program, and a forecast of what’s ahead for ag employers related to health care reform.

State Rep. Ben Albritton of District 56 pulled no punches in his keynote address, pressing the attendees to get involved and engaged in the legislative process. Fewer and fewer lawmakers have direct connections to agriculture, so it’s more important than ever for the grower community to be heard. He applauded agriculture associations who work with lawmakers on behalf of the industry, but added those efforts alone aren’t enough. It takes involvement by individuals to truly make a difference, he said. “I understand life is busy, but we need you more engaged,” he said. He urged the audience to be authentic and to listen when interacting with their elected representatives. “Just be you,” he said. “Be authentic. Otherwise, people will turn the switch off.” The key to that authenticity, he said, is to know why you do what you do every day, and to be able to articulate that.
“It’s imperative that you get plugged in,” he said. Lawmakers “need to know you exist.” And apparently, many in the industry need to know who is representing them. When Albritton asked for a show of hands of those who knew who their state representative is, only a fraction of folks indicated they did. He urged attendees to take a few minutes to pick up the phone and call their representative or write a note. “Be on the radar,” he said. “This industry needs it. I need it.”

Meet FFVA’s New Class Of Emerging Leaders

FFVA introduced the third class of its Emerging Leader Development Program at the recent 70th Annual Convention in Amelia Island. The new class members are Cathy Atchley of On Point Ag, Ryan Atwood of Keyplex, Elton Baldy of Bayer CropScience, Daniel Cavazos of Veg Pro International, Sam Glucksman of Glades Crop Care, Jeff Goodale of Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Jamie Lang of Farm Credit of Central Florida, Arby Lipman of Lipman Produce, Clayton Norman of DuPont Crop Protection, Geoff Roe of Wm. G. Roe & Sons, Matt Stacey of Crop Production Services, and Jordan Theis of Prudential Ag Investments.

The program develops leaders who are prepared with a depth of knowledge of the many issues facing agriculture. It provides them with the education and tools to become strong, effective advocates for Florida specialty crop agriculture. The program also strengthens grassroots engagement in FFVA and other industry organizations.

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