The Farm Foundation Forum held a panel discussion today to address food and agriculture issues likely to be faced by the next administration. Ken Barbic, senior director of federal government affairs, participated in the event and focused on labor issues.

In his remarks, Barbic outlined the need for immigration reform and the industry’s policy priorities, including legal status for existing workers and a new market-orientated visa program to replace the bureaucratic, costly and challenged H-2A program. 

Jeff Janas

An administrative law judge has ordered Gonzalo Fernandez, who operates Fernandez Farms Inc. in Watsonville, to repay kickbacks and rent he collected from more than 400 H-2A workers.

According to the decision, Fernandez requested payments of more than $1,600 apiece from several hundred foreign workers over the 2010 and 2011 seasons as reimbursement for transportation and other costs of bringing the laborers from Mexico.

Last week, the Colorado Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association (CFVGA) held a roundtable discussion and asked U.S. Representatives Mike Coffman (CO-6) and Ken Buck (CO-4) for assistance in fighting government overregulation. Robert Sakata, CFVGA president and WG member, hosted the event that also included Colorado Department of Agriculture Commissioner Don Brown and representatives from the offices of Sens. Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner and U.S. Reps. Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter.  

Jeff Janas



Western Growers has been the leading agricultural organization in advocating for a comprehensive immigration reform solution that includes legalizing the status of currently falsely-documented farmworkers and a new guest worker visa program to ensure future flows of labor. With many members increasingly turning to the H-2A program to meet their labor needs, Western Growers has elevated H-2A reform as a top public policy priority.

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Western Growers members care deeply for the food they grow, the land they sustain, the people they employ, and the community in which they live.