Online Only: Labor Strategies In Uncertain Times

Growers know that in good times and bad, they only get one payday per year.

Making it count means having the right number of workers, on time, for seasonal labor. If you miss your window and your paycheck once harvest season is finished, it’s over until next year.

In the current economic climate, growers really have only three options (and only two are legal) when it comes to hiring temporary help:

• Employ U.S. workers and then pray enough of them show up to complete the job.

• Hire illegal aliens and hope Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) doesn’t stage a raid, which could effectively shut down the grower’s business, perhaps permanently, and at minimum trigger a ruined season.

• Craft a winning solution and get a good night’s sleep: Work with an employer agent specializing in the H-2A program, the only legal avenue for employing temporary, non-immigrant laborers.

Why H-2A?

The H-2A visa allows U.S. agricultural employers who expect a shortage of domestic workers to bring non-immigrant foreign workers to the United States to perform agricultural labor on a temporary or seasonal basis (defined as less than a year). It’s time consuming and can be expensive. It involves multiple regulatory hurdles. But the people who depend on the program know it works – with mutual benefits to employers and workers alike.

“One strategy we endorse is to consider diversifying your workforce,” says Libby Whitley, an established H-2A expert whose company, MasLabor, works with U.S. employers to solve their temporary labor needs. “Consider targeted use of H-2A.” Whitley says many growers split their workforce equally between U.S. workers, when available, and guest workers, while others vary the ratio depending on how many workers they need and who actually shows up to work.

Some employers may fear hiring illegal aliens. Some may never have had any other workforce yet face a very real threat if federal law enforcement agents arrive unexpectedly.

“Consider transitioning to a guaranteed legal program,” Whitley says. “You can do that in a very targeted, specific way.”

A Solid Option

Another reason to secure workers with H-2A is it helps answer the question of the availability of legal U.S. workers. Employers are required to advertise in local newspapers about the availability of seasonal work and prove domestic labor is inadequate or unavailable before seeking temporary non-immigrant workers. And if sufficient U.S. laborers are not available or are unwilling to work, H-2A remains a viable option. Labor costs are locked in by contract, and workers typically live on site until it is time for them to return home. So there is no risk of a mid-harvest strike for more money.

Agents handle the application paperwork, coordinate with labor recruiters in foreign countries, track the progress of visa approvals and ensure the temporary workers arrive on the job site as close as possible to the first day they are needed. Professional agents make it their job to stay on top of the ever-evolving H-2A rules and regulations, while working to understand an employer’s labor needs so the right workers are hired.
In turn, the workers are employed within a legal system which protects their rights and gives them job information up front. They know before accepting the jobs where they’re going in the United States, what kind of work they’ll be doing and how much they can expect to be paid. Satisfied workers are key to an agricultural employer’s success each year. And a quality agent, Whitley says, helps ensure workers are treated correctly in the process.

“It’s a guaranteed legal, progressive program,” Whitley says. “The options are to hire domestic workers, who may not show up or last through the season, or illegal migrant laborers who come with high risk and uncertain outcomes.” Whitley is quick to add she always likes to see an H-2A job go to any U.S. citizen who wants it, but the reality is few Americans are willing to do agricultural work.

Even with unemployment rates on the rise, Whitley doubts U.S. workers will meet the need filled by non-immigrants on temporary work visas.

“The workers aren’t available in the numbers needed to meet seasonal labor demands in agriculture,” she said.

“Employers who have every reason to expect to be successful, who are smart, progressive and follow the law would do well to consider a 100 percent legal worker program. Even though the regulatory environment is tough, the smart money is looking at H-2A.”

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
Penn State Plant Bud

August 23, 2016

AmericanHort Is Helping Plant Importers Adjust To New Regulations

A report from Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort says the government is implementing a streamlined system for imports, in which all required data will be submitted electronically through a single window.

Read More
Plug Connection Assortment

August 9, 2016

AmericanHort’s Plug And Cutting Conference Will Feature Education, Workshops, And A Tour

This year’s conference, which takes place Sept. 19-21 in Carlsbad, CA, features discussions on water, pest and disease control, and production inputs, as well as a biocontrols workshop and tour of local cuttings facilities.

Read More
Cannabis In Greenhouse

July 27, 2016

The Top 5 Myths About Cannabis Production Cleared Up

There is a lot of misleading information going around about growing cannabis. Industry insider James Lowe makes sure you know the truth about cannabis production.

Read More
Latest Stories
Penn State Plant Bud

August 23, 2016

AmericanHort Is Helping Plant Importers Adjust To New R…

A report from Craig Regelbrugge at AmericanHort says the government is implementing a streamlined system for imports, in which all required data will be submitted electronically through a single window.

Read More
Plug Connection Assortment

August 9, 2016

AmericanHort’s Plug And Cutting Conference Will Feature…

This year’s conference, which takes place Sept. 19-21 in Carlsbad, CA, features discussions on water, pest and disease control, and production inputs, as well as a biocontrols workshop and tour of local cuttings facilities.

Read More
Cannabis In Greenhouse

July 27, 2016

The Top 5 Myths About Cannabis Production Cleared Up

There is a lot of misleading information going around about growing cannabis. Industry insider James Lowe makes sure you know the truth about cannabis production.

Read More
Joe Bischoff

July 26, 2016

SAF Partners With Cornerstone Government Affairs To Adv…

A new partnership between the Society of American Florists (SAF) and Cornerstone Government Affairs ensures that SAF will continue its highly effective work advocating for issues that affect the floriculture industry. “SAF and Cornerstone together provide experienced voices on Capitol Hill to protect our growers’ interests,” says SAF CEO Peter Moran. “We’ll continue to move major policy priorities forward on behalf of small business and agriculture.” Cornerstone is a public affairs firm specializing in government relations, strategic consulting, and advocacy. Its team of more than 50 senior professionals includes former senior professional staff from both authorization and appropriations committees and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as well as veterans of the horticulture industry. Agricultural and horticultural issues of primary concern to SAF members include access to labor, immigration, crop protection, international trade and other matters related to the day-to-day operations of growers. Before she retired this year, SAF lobbyist Lin […]

Read More

July 26, 2016

AFE Releases New Videos Highlighting Industry Successes

The American Floral Endowment (AFE) recently released five new videos, created to highlight floriculture successes through industry collaboration, support, and participation. “Each video shares real stories from industry members on career development through scholarships and internships, and true examples of research solutions that have shaped how the industry operates today,” says Laura Shinall, President of Syndicate Sales, Inc., and AFE Public Relations and Development Chair. “We’re excited to be able to share some great success stories in an effort to increase industry participation.” The introductory video “Heard of the American Floral Endowment?” helps educate those who aren’t currently aware of AFE’s programs, while other segmented videos (retail, wholesale, grower) share how Endowment programs complement each group and why it’s so important that everyone in the industry participates: Retail Florists Share Why They Turn to AFE New Resources for Floral Wholesalers and Suppliers AFE Helping Growers Profit Ready for a Career in Floriculture or Horticulture? […]

Read More
Briscoe White, Growers Exchange

July 6, 2016

The Grower’s Exchange Unlocks The Secret to E-Commerce

In the Internet era, Briscoe and Kenan White knew they had to adapt or die and specialize to survive. Here’s how they took The Grower’s Exchange online.

Read More
Brie Arthur

July 6, 2016

5 Can’t-Miss Events To Watch For At Farwest 2016

Whether it’s classes on biocontrols and gardening trends, or networking opportunities in and around the trade show floor, there’s plenty happening at Farwest 2016 in Portland, OR, in August.

Read More
Cannabis states 2016

July 1, 2016

Adult Use Of Cannabis On The Ballot In 2016

25 states have legalized cannabis and public opinion is increasingly positive. Here’s where things may be headed as we move toward the fall elections.

Read More
Practical Software Grower Vertical

June 18, 2016

Practical Software Solutions Increases Accessibility, E…

Practical Software will demonstrate Grower Vertical, its customizable and scalable enterprise management system for the horticulture industry, at Cultivate’16 in July.

Read More
Battlefield Farms Company shot

June 14, 2016

Battlefield Farms Is A Finalist For 2016 Operation Of T…

Battlefield Farms in Rapidan, VA, is one of three finalists for Greenhouse Grower’s 2016 Operation Of The Year award and winner of the Excellence In Innovation award for 2016.

Read More

June 7, 2016

Ball Seed Offers Full Mobile Ordering Capabilities With…

The latest update for Ball Seed’s WebTrack To Go mobile app now includes full ordering capabilities for the industry’s largest assortment of seeds and plants. App users can also complete order fulfillment via seed count or package size, find product substitutions, get personalized “contact us” information, request plant tags, and more. “Upgrading WebTrack To Go to the full suite of ordering and management tools is where we’ve always wanted to be,” says Mark Morris, Director of IT for Ball Seed. “With this new roll-out, we’re keeping up with our customers on-the-go and providing them the information and access they need –- even while away from their desks.” The Ball Seed WebTrack To Go app lets customers: Check order status and shipment tracking 24-7 Access up-to-the-minute product inventory from hundreds of suppliers Place orders by seed count, packet size, and more Find product info, culture and photos when and where they […]

Read More
Gotham Greens Atrium Style Greenhouse Chicago

May 23, 2016

What’s Good For The Environment Is Good For Business [O…

Investing in technology to become more sustainable “always goes hand in hand,” says Abe VanWingerden, co-CEO of Metrolina Greenhouses. “If it is good for the environment, it normally is good for business over the long term.” That connection was abundantly clear in the responses we received to this year’s Top 100 Growers Survey. VanWingerden points to three investments Metrolina has made as good examples of how technology can reduce an operation’s carbon footprint and pay dividends financially. Its biomass system burns locally sourced waste wood — a renewable resource; its ozone water treatment system cleans irrigation water, reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides, and improving plant quality and precision growing; and electrostatic sprayers reduce water and chemical use, and provide more targeted chemical applications. Other Top 100 Growers have found VanWingerden’s theory to be true, as well. Costa Farms’ investment in solar energy panels on three buildings at its […]

Read More
Petunia 'Supertunia Violet Star Charm' (2015 University of Georgia Field Trials)

May 10, 2016

New Southern-Centric Ornamental Production Conference T…

The 2016 Academy of Crop Production is dedicated exclusively to sharing information on advanced ornamental crop production and business management techniques for ornamental producers.

Read More
University of Florida Online Greenhouse Training Courses

April 25, 2016

University of Florida Offering Online Training Courses …

There will be five courses offered, with the first starting on May 30. Courses are available in both English and Spanish and range from beginner level to advanced education.

Read More
Sanitation programs are essential to preventing and removing food safety concerns.

April 7, 2016

USDA Launches GroupGAP Program For Fruit And Vegetable …

The new certification program is designed to help small and mid-size growers, including greenhouse vegetable producers, comply with new food safety regulations.

Read More
Young Plants Farm North Carolina

March 15, 2016

Young’s Plant Farm Obtains MPS-A Qualification

MPS, an organization that develops and manages certification for companies in the horticulture industry, has awarded MPS-A certification to Young’s Plant Farm in North Carolina and Alabama.

Read More
Charlie Hall Feature Image

March 14, 2016

Dr. Charlie Hall Will Offer Keynote Address At Farwest …

The Texas A&M economist will discuss factors affecting short- and long-term demand driving the future of the green industry.

Read More
Seed Your Future Logo

March 8, 2016

Longwood Gardens And American Society For Horticultural…

Under the direction of co-chairs Paul B. Redman of Longwood Gardens and Anna Ball of Ball Horticultural Company, the “Seed Your Future” initiative is designed to combat declining awareness of horticulture while promoting it as a viable career choice.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]