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
image1 - feature
Nuts
July 28, 2016
Tips For Late-Planting Potted Trees
Historically, the establishment of deciduous orchards was typified by planting bare-rooted trees during dormancy. With the advent of technology and Read More
Cannabis plant closeup
Citrus
July 28, 2016
Florida’s Medicinal Cannabis Venture Officially Open For Business
The state’s first dispensary of product comes online in Tallahassee, others waiting for the green light. Read More
Andrew (left) and Steve Beilstein use an air dancer, pictured in the background, as a bird-scaring device at The Blueberry Patch in Lexington, OH.  (Photo credit: Gary Gao)
Berries
July 27, 2016
Bird Damage Plagues Most Fruit Growers
There’s no silver bullet, but here are several techniques to annoy and deter birds. Read More
precision ag vision conference
Citrus
July 27, 2016
Ag Tech Is Hot On Horticulture; Get A Handle On What This Means For You
As evidenced by the recent AgTech Summit hosted by Forbes magazine in Salinas, CA, action in precision farming and the Read More
These wildflowers, planted near a California almond orchard, can be extremely effective in aiding pollinators. (Photo credit: Katharina Ullmann, Xerces Society)
Production
July 27, 2016
Survey: Fruit And Vegetable Growers Support Pollinators
Most of the berry, almond, melon, pumpkin, and tree fruit growers surveyed are being careful about how they manage their farms to minimize pesticide impacts and improve bees’ habitats. Read More
potato late blight leaves
Potatoes
July 27, 2016
Hail Hammers Potato Crops In North Dakota
Storms have wreaked havoc on crops in the Peace Garden State. Read More
cash money in hand
Citrus
July 27, 2016
Stockholders OK Dow, DuPont Merger
Companies intend to separate into three, independent companies. Read More
Tall Spindle Axe featured
Stone Fruit
July 26, 2016
Take A Closer Look At The Tall Spindle Axe Training System
One of the more traditional three-dimensional canopies, Tall Spindle Axe data shows consistent early and sustained yields. Read More
Workers picking in a Florida strawberry field
Berries
July 26, 2016
Wish Farms Commits $100K To Food Safety Cause
Central Florida berry operation will donate $20,000 annually over the next five years to fund various research projects backed by the Center for Produce Safety. Read More
The Latest
Nuts
July 28, 2016
Tips For Late-Planting Potted Trees
Historically, the establishment of deciduous orchards was typified by planting bare-rooted trees during dormancy. With the advent of technology and Read More
Citrus
July 28, 2016
Florida’s Medicinal Cannabis Venture Off…
The state’s first dispensary of product comes online in Tallahassee, others waiting for the green light. Read More
Apples & Pears
July 28, 2016
Seeing The Real Big Apple On The Nation’…
Hot temperatures, lack of precipitation, mechanization, and high density production systems were among the highlights of the International Fruit Tree Association’s annual study tour. Read More
Berries
July 27, 2016
Bird Damage Plagues Most Fruit Growers
There’s no silver bullet, but here are several techniques to annoy and deter birds. Read More
Citrus
July 27, 2016
Ag Tech Is Hot On Horticulture; Get A Ha…
As evidenced by the recent AgTech Summit hosted by Forbes magazine in Salinas, CA, action in precision farming and the Read More
Production
July 27, 2016
Survey: Fruit And Vegetable Growers Supp…
Most of the berry, almond, melon, pumpkin, and tree fruit growers surveyed are being careful about how they manage their farms to minimize pesticide impacts and improve bees’ habitats. Read More
Potatoes
July 27, 2016
Hail Hammers Potato Crops In North Dakot…
Storms have wreaked havoc on crops in the Peace Garden State. Read More
Citrus
July 27, 2016
Stockholders OK Dow, DuPont Merger
Companies intend to separate into three, independent companies. Read More
Stone Fruit
July 26, 2016
Take A Closer Look At The Tall Spindle A…
One of the more traditional three-dimensional canopies, Tall Spindle Axe data shows consistent early and sustained yields. Read More
Berries
July 26, 2016
Wish Farms Commits $100K To Food Safety …
Central Florida berry operation will donate $20,000 annually over the next five years to fund various research projects backed by the Center for Produce Safety. Read More
Fruits
July 26, 2016
Popular Spanish-Speaking Fruit Summer To…
Second-annual tour designed to educate Spanish-speaking employees or farmworkers on fruit growing practices. Read More
Apples & Pears
July 26, 2016
Walmart Begins Selling So-Called ‘…
Cosmetically challenged apples are the company’s first foray into a global movement to cut food waste. Read More
Production
July 26, 2016
Importing Frozen Honeybee Sperm Is Key T…
The Washington State University (WSU) bee program has worked with researchers from around the world to create more honeybee genetic repositories like the one at WSU. Read More
GenNext Growers
July 26, 2016
Tour Dedicated To Next Generation Tree F…
Newly formed Next Generation Tree Fruit Alliance to tour orchards, network. Read More
Farm Management
July 26, 2016
Mexico Has Potential For U.S. Sweet Pota…
Assessment concluded that opportunities abound if Mexican buyers better understand grades, sizes, and quality of U.S. product. Read More
Crop Protection
July 25, 2016
Study: GMO Ban Would Hurt Economy And En…
Food prices and greenhouse gas emissions would rise, according to paper by Purdue University agricultural economist. Read More
Farm Management
July 25, 2016
Seven Reasons You Need To Attend The Uni…
Education sessions and Capitol Hill visits will focus on key issues, such as labor, facing the fresh produce industry. Read More
Tomatoes
July 25, 2016
New Research Uncovers Gene That May Be K…
Scientists identify a gene that encodes an enzyme which plays a pivotal role in controlling tomato softening. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]