Editorial: Change Before You Have To

In this space last month, I talked about the significance of E-Verify legislation, which has been passed on the state level in Georgia and was recently introduced in the U.S. House Judiciary Committee by Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). No doubt you’ve already seen many of the headlines coming out of the Peach State, which ironically faces the prospect of many peach growers being forced to leave their crop hanging on the tree if they don’t have the ability to harvest it.

I ended that column with a brief call to action, urging you to contact your elected officials and explain to them why this issue is so critical. This month, I’d like to expand on that discussion, and reinforce that this is not an issue that you can or should throw your hands up in the air over, as if there’s nothing you can do about it. True, the topic of immigration reform is such a contentious one that it can seem difficult to have a logical discussion about it. However, there are two things you can do in response to this pending crisis facing our industry.

Reduce Your Labor Dependence

The first step you can take is to look inward at your own farming and production systems, and determine any short- and long-term changes you can make that might at least reduce your dependence on a skilled labor force. This may seem like a daunting task, but here are a few examples of how any grower, regardless of their size, can make this happen.

● Mo Tougas, this year’s Apple Grower of the Year, farms on about 120 acres in Northboro, MA. He’s involved in the H-2A program, and while he only recruits a very small number of workers through the program, these employees are the backbone of his production crew.

Tougas is always on the hunt for the most efficient production systems, and with his latest venture into fruiting walls, he’s found one that also looks like it will be easy to manage. By hedging horizontally once a year, he’s able to limit seasonal pruning activity while making it easier for tractors to pass between the rows. He is still experimenting with hedging timing, but sees these fruiting walls as a viable option for the future.

● In our February issue, we profiled McDougall & Sons in Wenatchee, WA. Scott McDougall is a believer in the H-2A program, despite its complexities, because it gives him the advantage of having a trained and skilled work force for his 2,500-acre orchard every year. His emphasis is on recruiting the same pool of workers back to the farm each year, so he doesn’t have to go through the process of training someone new on an annual basis.

● Orchard mechanization is something every grower should be considering. The investment costs may be substantial, but as our own “Tree Fruit” columnist, Washington State University’s Jim McFerson, has touted, mechanization with the use of platforms and automated harvesters might be the only way of ensuring a viable long-term future for the fruit industry.

An Opportunity With United Fresh

The other thing you can do when it comes to the topic of E-Verify is to get involved in the discussion and make sure your voice and your concerns are heard. This is, of course, easy to say, but in the very near future, there is a direct opportunity you can take advantage of.

The United Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Public Policy Conference takes place October 3-5 right on Capitol Hill. The event is designed to allow you to meet face to face with lawmakers to discuss the most critical issues affecting the future of your operation, and the produce industry. Several of our editors, including me, have attended this meeting, and can vouch for how effective it can be.

One benefit is that United Fresh does much of the work for you. Prior to visiting House and Senate office buildings, you and your colleagues will review the biggest topics you want to address, and you’ll come up with a list of the most effective talking points. United Fresh will even set up your complete schedule in advance.

Once the event is over, however, the rest is up to you. Don’t let this personal visit be the ending point of your involvement. Continue to follow up with the individuals you met during your lobbying visit. If you make a good impression, chances are they will remember you and be more willing to continue the dialogue.

Finally, I would encourage all of you to read the August cover story of our sister publication, American Vegetable Grower. The article provides a first-hand account from some of the nation’s largest vegetable growers on the implications of a mandatory federal E-Verify program. As one grower said when asked about the potential impact of E-Verify legislation: “We’d be out of business.”

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
Biocontrols East 2017 tour stop in citrus country
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Alico Overhaul to Cut Citrus Production Expenditures
Company restructuring aims to integrate legacy businesses and reduce input costs significantly. Read More
Vegetable field irrigation in Florida
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Sustainable Farming Projects in Florida to Share the Wealth
St. Johns River Water Management District grants backing to 12 on-farm plans aimed at resource conservation and nutrient reduction. Read More
Jim Snively of Southern Gardens Citrus checks oranges in a grove
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Florida Citrus Tree Rehab in Full Swing After the Storm
With Hurricane Irma well in the rear view, growers and researchers hope to work groves back to a productive state as HLB rages on. Read More
closeup of turkey with another foul in the background
Farm Management
November 17, 2017
Consumers Forking out Less This Year for Classic Thanksgiving Meal
Annual American Farm Bureau average price report reveals you can host a fine Turkey Day feast for less than $50. Read More
Apples & Pears
November 16, 2017
USApple Seeking Nominations for Young Apple Leaders Program
Deadline to apply for program is Dec. 31. Read More
GenNext Growers
November 16, 2017
Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Support Young Farmers
Act designed to help next generation access affordable land, crop insurance, and financial capital. Read More
CRISPR-Cas-9-illustration-by-Ernesto-del-Aguila-III-NHGRI
Crop Protection
November 15, 2017
Syngenta Secures CRISPR Cas-9 License
Other companies also have secured licenses, but few have announced plans to use the gene editing technology on vegetables. Read More
Crookham-Companys-Dustin-Batt-and-Mark-Jones-and-Sakatas-Bill-Jones
Vegetables
November 15, 2017
Vegetable Breeding for Timing Is only Part of the Picture
Early and late season varieties give growers flexibility and allow them to sequence crops so harvest crews have steady work over a longer period. But those varieties also need other traits like disease resistance and taste. Read More
Pat-Mosely-and-Rakesh-Kumar
Vegetables
November 15, 2017
Taste Is Back on the Front Burner for Vegetable Breeders
In the pursuit for solving some of the biggest problems for growers, breeders have sometimes ignored flavor. Here are two breeders who have made taste a top priority. Read More
Citrus
November 14, 2017
USDA Announces Grants to Promote IPM Practices
Methyl bromide transition, crop protection management among programs funded. Read More
Stone Fruit
November 14, 2017
Southeastern Peach Growers Hope for Winter
Chill hours being sought, but the possibility of a La Niña climate pattern could mean a drier and warmer winter. Read More
UC-Davis-trials-feature
Vegetables
November 13, 2017
Plant Breeding Is a Key Part of Precision Agriculture’s Future [Opinion]
One theme that stood out during the vegetable seed trials this past summer was how much breeders are keeping future automation in mind. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
Biostimulants Making Big Strides as It Seeks Organization
The inaugural BiocontrolsSM USA East Conference & Expo in Orlando, FL, featured two days of educational sessions focused on how Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
So What Exactly Are Biostimulants, Anyway?
Biostimulants are one of the hottest new topics in specialty crops, but most growers could use a little clarity on where they fit. Here are the basics you need to know. Read More
FAE 17 outdoor equipment display
Florida Ag Expo
November 13, 2017
Florida Growers Explore New Solutions to Age-Old Problems
Farm innovation and alternative approaches to production front and center at 2017 Florida Ag Expo. Read More
The Latest
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Alico Overhaul to Cut Citrus Production …
Company restructuring aims to integrate legacy businesses and reduce input costs significantly. Read More
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Sustainable Farming Projects in Florida …
St. Johns River Water Management District grants backing to 12 on-farm plans aimed at resource conservation and nutrient reduction. Read More
Citrus
November 17, 2017
Florida Citrus Tree Rehab in Full Swing …
With Hurricane Irma well in the rear view, growers and researchers hope to work groves back to a productive state as HLB rages on. Read More
Farm Management
November 17, 2017
Consumers Forking out Less This Year for…
Annual American Farm Bureau average price report reveals you can host a fine Turkey Day feast for less than $50. Read More
Apples & Pears
November 16, 2017
USApple Seeking Nominations for Young Ap…
Deadline to apply for program is Dec. 31. Read More
GenNext Growers
November 16, 2017
Bipartisan Bill Introduced to Support Yo…
Act designed to help next generation access affordable land, crop insurance, and financial capital. Read More
Crop Protection
November 15, 2017
Syngenta Secures CRISPR Cas-9 License
Other companies also have secured licenses, but few have announced plans to use the gene editing technology on vegetables. Read More
Vegetables
November 15, 2017
Vegetable Breeding for Timing Is only Pa…
Early and late season varieties give growers flexibility and allow them to sequence crops so harvest crews have steady work over a longer period. But those varieties also need other traits like disease resistance and taste. Read More
Vegetables
November 15, 2017
Taste Is Back on the Front Burner for Ve…
In the pursuit for solving some of the biggest problems for growers, breeders have sometimes ignored flavor. Here are two breeders who have made taste a top priority. Read More
Citrus
November 14, 2017
USDA Announces Grants to Promote IPM Pra…
Methyl bromide transition, crop protection management among programs funded. Read More
Stone Fruit
November 14, 2017
Southeastern Peach Growers Hope for Wint…
Chill hours being sought, but the possibility of a La Niña climate pattern could mean a drier and warmer winter. Read More
Vegetables
November 13, 2017
Plant Breeding Is a Key Part of Precisio…
One theme that stood out during the vegetable seed trials this past summer was how much breeders are keeping future automation in mind. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
Biostimulants Making Big Strides as It S…
The inaugural BiocontrolsSM USA East Conference & Expo in Orlando, FL, featured two days of educational sessions focused on how Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
So What Exactly Are Biostimulants, Anywa…
Biostimulants are one of the hottest new topics in specialty crops, but most growers could use a little clarity on where they fit. Here are the basics you need to know. Read More
Florida Ag Expo
November 13, 2017
Florida Growers Explore New Solutions to…
Farm innovation and alternative approaches to production front and center at 2017 Florida Ag Expo. Read More
Biocontrols Conference
November 13, 2017
Microbial-based Biostimulants: Big Poten…
There is no shortage of interest in or questions and opinions about biostimulants. Many are working to develop them as Read More
GenNext Growers
November 12, 2017
USDA to Fund Research on Next Generation…
Engineering, production projects are designed to spur farming innovation. Read More
Berries
November 11, 2017
2018 North American Raspberry and Blackb…
Featured speakers at the annual conference, slated for February in Ventura, CA, include Miles Reiter of Driscoll’s. Read More