Last week, the Western Growers Board of Directors met in Sacramento where they engaged with key administration officials and legislative representatives and deliberated on major policy issues facing the membership and broader Western fresh produce industry.
The following is a summary of several important points of discussion and significant action taken by the Board:
H-2A Processing Delays: With comprehensive immigration reform stalled indefinitely, Western Growers members have increasingly turned to the H-2A program to meet their labor needs. Unfortunately, some California growers are currently facing processing delays at the Department of Labor (DOL) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Since the beginning of the year, of more than 50 applications, only one has been certified on time. Unless the situation is remedied soon, the economic losses from these delays are expected to mount as California enters the heart of its harvest season.
Staff was directed by the board to conduct a member survey on H-2A processing delays to gather data that can be used in lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill. If your company is engaged in the H-2A program, we encourage you to anticipate and respond to this survey, which will be distributed later this week. Additionally, if you have not already done so, please reach out to your Congressional representatives while they are back home for Easter Recess. Urge them to press DOL and USCIS for solutions to avert the pending H-2A processing delay crisis.
CLICK HERE for suggested talking points to keep in mind when you engage with your Representatives.
Drinking Water Replacement: The State Water Resources Control Board recently issued a draft of the East San Joaquin Waste Discharge Requirements that included encouraging Regional Water Resources Control Boards to require replacement drinking water where appropriate (e.g., where nitrate levels exceed drinking water standards) using cleanup and abatement orders against growers. Understandably, growers are concerned that if they agree to provide replacement drinking water, they may be subject to third-party lawsuits and ongoing financial burdens of replacing drinking water for an unknown number of impacted individuals.
Staff was directed by the WG board to explore and analyze possible alternatives that would result in replacement drinking water being supplied while also protecting growers from third-party lawsuits.
Crop Protection Tools: Ongoing challenges to the continued use of pesticides in farming, particularly fumigants, is threatening the ability of growers to continue operating in California. While California has the strictest registration process in the country, many crop protection tools are in jeopardy of being regulated out of existence. Currently, the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (CDPR) is in the process of developing new regulations that would further restrict the use of pesticides near schools and expand notification requirements.
Staff was directed to prioritize efforts related to protecting individual compounds and to engage in strategic initiatives aimed at changing current public perceptions of crop protection tools.