July 21, 2011

Lemkes: E-Verify Poses Dangers To Ag

Van Wingerden International’s Bert Lemkes joined other growers and business owners July 13 in a march on Capitol Hill to share their perspective on the impact a mandatory E-Verify system will have on agriculture. The march, called the Fly-In, was organized by the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association and the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform. SAF and representatives of the Produce Marketing Association joined Lemkes in meetings with the staffs of North Carolina Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan, as well as seven other House of Representatives’ offices. “I am an immigrant too,” Lemkes told offices of the North Carolina congressional delegation. “I made the decision, after I came here on a visa, to become a U.S. citizen, because this is the best country in the world. But E-Verify, if it is passed without provisions for agriculture, will be the end of agriculture as we know it here.” The Legal […]

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June 28, 2011

Grower Groups Organize Protest of E-Verify

Society of American Florists (SAF) and Western Growers Association are joining the Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR) in lobbying Congress to scuttle the current version of the E-Verify immigration bill. The group wants growers to visit their Congress members this week (June 27-July 1) and July 13 in Washington and at their home offices during the House’s July 4th recess. The current E-Verify bill would require employers to check the legal status of all employees by running social security numbers against a national database. The growers’ position is that unless legal means are provided for migrant workers, then strict enforcement can cripple agriculture and horticulture. In a letter to members [membership needed to access page], SAF mentioned Georgia’s pilot program to replace immigrant labor with ex-cons on probation. Georgia recently passed an Arizona-type immigration bill. According to SAF, two-thirds of the probationers disappeared within the first two days due to the […]

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June 14, 2011

Stricter Worker Sanctions Coming

I wrote a column titled “The Entitled Generation” in this very space last October, when I criticized my own generation for lacking the motivation to work hard and expecting the good life to simply be handed to them. A colleague challenged my comments at the time, arguing the Millennials are doing as much good as previous generations. The colleague even used me as an example in her argument, contending there are many “success stories” of 20-something-year-olds doing something worthwhile with their lives. While I agree there are success stories to tell about people my age, I hold firm to the notion that my generation believes it’s entitled to the good life. Just look at your state’s unemployment rate in recent years. Some of you live in areas that continue to endure unemployment rates of 10-plus percent, yet there are growers who can’t find U.S.-born workers to do the heavy lifting […]

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June 10, 2011

Congressman Introducing Legislation To Mandate E-Verify

Rep. Lamar Smith announced last week he will introduce legislation this week to make the E-Verify program mandatory. E-Verify is an online, legal-employment status verification system created by the Department of Homeland Security. A bill mandating national use, without a solution for the estimated 7 million undocumented workers currently employed in the United States, would significantly challenge not just the greenhouse industry, but the slow recovery of America’s economy. Agricultural and seasonal employers would be hit hardest. The American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA) has put into place a grassroots program involving fly-ins, lobbying events held in Washington, D.C. ANLA is also organizing fly-outs in which the association issues briefings held around the country to prepare industry leaders to make local visits to their Congressional representatives. "There is acknowledgement that the labor-intensive agriculture community would be uniquely affected by this legislation," says Craig Reggelbrugge, ANLA’s vice president for government relations who spoke with Smith’s legal counsel regarding the […]

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June 7, 2011

Growers Torn On Court’s Illegal Immigration Ruling

Greenhouse floriculture is torn over the Supreme Court’s ruling last month that upheld an Arizona law imposing sanctions against businesses that hire illegal immigrants. In a GreenhouseGrower.com poll taken over the last week, 42 percent of those polled say they “absolutely agree” with the Supreme Court’s decision. Another 29.5 percent say they “absolutely do not” agree with the ruling, with 10.2 percent indicating they “somewhat agree,” 12.5 percent indicating they “don’t really agree” and 5.8 percent indicating they aren’t sure what to think. As one anonymous reader wrote on GreenhouseGrower.com: “This law does not cover the main issue of illegal immigration. This law is just a patch to the whole system. The courts and legislatures do not know how to solve the problem and are using the E-verify to save face.” Another reader shared a similar assessment: “I agree the illegal alien situation needs to be addressed. However, the answer […]

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May 28, 2011

Supreme Court Upholds Arizona Immigration Law

By a 5-3 vote Thursday, the Supreme Court upheld an Arizona law that imposes sanctions against businesses that hire illegal immigrants. The court also upheld the state’s law requiring all employers to utilize E-Verify, a federal electronic employment eligibility verification system that had been voluntary nationwide. Leaders of agricultural groups, including American Nursery & Landscape Association (ANLA), were quick to respond to the ruling. What are the implications for greenhouse and nursery growers? “First, some state legislatures, which have been contemplating such laws but have held back waiting for the high court’s decision, may now proceed,” says Craig Regelbrugge, ANLA’s vice president of government relations and research. “So we may see more states take immigration law into their own hands.” A few states, like Georgia, did not wait. “Georgia’s law was signed recently by Governor Nathan Deal,” Regelbrugge adds. “Already, it is having a devastating impact on the farm sector. […]

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May 23, 2011

ANLA Defends Current & Future Labor Source

The American Nursery and Landscape Association (ANLA) has taken action in response to the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) recently proposed changes to the H-2B program. Widely used by landscape installation and maintenance professionals and other seasonal employers seeking a legal workforce, these proposed changes would increase filing requirements and advertising timelines for employers seeking to fill positions. Employers will be subject to stricter requirements to hire any and all available U.S. workers, despite historically low interest and retention of these applicants. “DOL’s proposed changes will render the program unworkable for responsible landscape installation and maintenance employers seeking a legal, seasonal workforce,” says Hadley Sosnoff, ANLA’s director of government relations. Submitting comments to DOL for review, ANLA is pursuing a three-pronged approach to defending the H-2B program. First, ANLA joined partners in the H-2B Workforce Coalition to convey how the changes will negatively affect the program and employers. ANLA also […]

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April 29, 2011

Economic Recovery Brings Immigration Debate Back To Forefront

During the last recession, the green industry got a bit of a reprieve in that the country’s attention was focused on the economic downturn. Now that things are improving, dialogue regarding various immigration policies is resurfacing, particularly among the enforcement only camp. The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is currently conducting I-9 immigration audits at many greenhouse, nursery and landscape businesses across the country. Even if you are in compliance, the results can be devastating as you are forced to terminate experienced and valued workers. Poor compliance practices can mean thousands of dollars in fines – or worse. While the impacts of an audit cannot be completely avoided, smart preparation can save you time and money. Compliance is only one facet of the immigration reform issue, though. Craig Regelbrugge, ANLA vice president for government relations, who co-chairs the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR), will give a brief update […]

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April 29, 2011

Color Spot Leasing Hines Locations

Hines Nurseries has signed a letter of intent to sell assets from its nurseries in Chino Valley, Ariz., and Fulshear, Texas, to Color Spot Nurseries, the largest greenhouse operation in the United States. Hines will own and operate the nurseries until closing in June 2011, when Color Spot will purchase the assets of the facilities and lease the land from Hines. Hines, which also sold assets from its location in Fresno, Calif., will continue to serve its customers nationwide from nurseries in Fallbrook and Winters, Calif., and Forest Grove, Ore. “Focusing on the nursery business for all our customers is the next step in our strategic plan to rebuild Hines,” says Steve Thigpen, Hines CEO. “This is a milestone in our long-range strategy to transform Hines Growers into a strong, progressive nursery company.” Hines’ Arizona location encompasses 40 acres of nursery and 400,000 square feet of greenhouse space. Its Texas location includes 420 […]

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April 28, 2011

Poll: Majority Favor Immigration Reform With Pathway to Citizenship

A small majority of likely voters favor comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants with no criminal record–but not amnesty–a new IBOPE Zogby Interactive survey finds. The survey, conducted from April 21-25 also finds nearly half (47 percent) believe reform legislation should require that the undocumented be deported, even if it splits up their families. Almost three quarters (73 percent) support increased funding to patrol U.S. borders. Learn more about the results at www.zogby.com.

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December 29, 2010

Supplementing The H-2A Program

A Midwestern grower, like many of his colleagues across the country, has a difficult time pinning down reliable, hard-working Americans to work in his greenhouses. He’s turned to H-2A on occasion for labor solutions, but the program is a costly one and litigation prone, so he’s looked for help elsewhere. Two places the grower has turned are the Communications for America Education Program (CAEP) and the Minnesota Agricultural Student Trainee (MAST) program. Both have become great labor sources for him and easier to manage than H-2A. Both are also programs many growers know little about. “What I like about CAEP is they’re nice people to deal with, they are flexible and they try to find you the people who best match your individual situation,” says the Midwestern grower. “Some other programs do that, too.” MAST is a flexible program, as well, and it’s one the Midwestern grower heard about through […]

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