Political Stalemate On Labor Means Your Opportunity To Automate

Harvest Automation HV 100 FeatureIf you ask me, November 9 can’t get here soon enough. Why? Because it’s the day after Election Day — an occasion that should be marked by its symbolism of democracy, but instead will likely have many of us breathing a sigh of relief that our long national nightmare is finally over.

Those of you who attended Cultivate’16 or some of the other industry conferences this summer may have seen presentations from Craig Regelbrugge, Senior Vice President of Industry Advocacy and Research at AmericanHort. Regelbrugge spoke several times about the implications of this year’s election on the floriculture industry, especially when it comes to labor issues.

I spoke to Regelbrugge a few times this summer, and each time I asked him about the current political climate, he kept using the words “unpredictable” and “frustrating,” these are not exactly words of encouragement as we decide the next leader of our nation and our Congressional representatives.

When asked to give his prediction, Regelbrugge says the House of Representatives is virtually certain to remain under Republican control next year because the vast majority of House seats are “safe” seats for whichever party that holds them. So, Republicans are likely to lose some seats, but still retain control.

However, he also says the seats that may switch tend to be held by more moderate members.

“This may mean more throbbing headaches for Speaker Paul Ryan on any major issues of division, with immigration reform being a prime example,” he says. Democrats may succeed at taking the Senate, Regelbrugge says, as Republicans have more ground to defend and most of the toss-up races involve seats held by the GOP now. But whichever party gets a majority, it will be a slim one, which means nothing will move forward without a good measure of bipartisan support.

A Time To Overcome Cynicism

So what happens when the election is finally over? It’s highly unlikely that anyone will make good on their vow to move to Canada based on the results (at least I think …), but the reality is that, save from a situation where one party controls the Oval Office and both Congressional chambers, major reform in any direction is not likely to happen too quickly.

Going back to the topic of labor and immigration, even with both presidential candidates being pretty clear in where they stand, I can’t imagine we’re going to have a wall, or an approved piece of legislation with comprehensive immigration reform, any time soon.

Fortunately, Regelbrugge is a bit more optimistic than I am, and says he feels that the environment may soon be more conducive to immigration reform. Through AmericanHort, he is using every tool and every opportunity to voice the concerns of the floriculture industry.

“We face the challenge of deep and growing cynicism about politics,” he says. “But like it or not, our political system is inherently competitive, and decisions made every day at all levels of the government have an impact on horticultural businesses. Virtually every decision results in someone being better off, and someone else less so. If you opt out of participating, you’re likely to end up on the losing side.”

Use Every Tool In The Kit

What are some of the alternative labor sources you should consider if immigration reform continues to stall?

The short answer, Regelbrugge says, is to use every tool and resource available to you.

“For starters, that means doing everything possible to retain current workers,” Regelbrugge says. “It’s easier to keep good employees happy than to find new ones.”

Next, he says all growers should carefully consider opportunities to be lean, for example:
• “Where and how can rethinking your processes and practices streamline things and reduce your labor need?”
• “Where can mechanization or automation improve the nature of jobs?”

Resettled refugees are also an interesting opportunity for some employers who are lucky enough to be close to communities where resettlement has taken place, Regelbrugge says.

In the meantime, the H-2A program also remains a legal labor option for growers with seasonal (less than 10 months) labor needs, Regelbrugge says. But you need to go in “eyes wide open,” which means getting good legal advice on how to structure job descriptions.

“This means understanding the regulatory requirements and ‘gotchas’ associated with policies like ‘corresponding employment,’” Regelbrugge says. “It also means solving the dilemma of how to provide housing, bracing for the uncertainties of processing delays, and talking to folks who have been through the program before.”

Despite all these things, Regelbrugge says the industry is seeing rapid growth in use of the H-2A program because it’s often the only alternative. That said, “the industry deserves a better program, and that will be [AmericanHort’s] focus when legislative opportunities arise.”

Topics: , , ,

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Political Stalemate On Labor Means Your Opportunity To Automate

  1. The U.S. currently has eleven non immigrant guest worker visa programs.
    http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/employment/temporary.html

    There is no cap on the number of workers allowed into the U.S. under the H-2A temporary agricultural guest worker visa program.

    http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/263529-funding-deal-hits-backlash-over-increase-in-worker-visas
    “The provision could more than triple the number of H-2B visas for foreign workers seeking jobs at hotels, theme parks, ski resorts, golf courses, landscaping businesses, restaurants and bars. The move is intended to boost the supply of non-agricultural seasonal workers.”

    http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/USCIS/Resources/Resources%20for%20Congress/Congressional%20Reports/2011%20National%20Immigration%20%26%20Consular%20Conference%20Presentations/H-2A_and_H-2B_Visas.pdf

    Alabama had to bite the bullet and hire LEGAL Immigrants for its AG Industry:

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-09-24/africans-relocate-to-alabama-to-fill-jobs-after-immigration-law
    Africans Relocate to Alabama to Fill Jobs After Immigration Law

    “East Coast began calling Atlanta refugee agencies several months ago looking for legal immigrants to come to Alabama for a year, said Mbanfu,
    refugee employment director for Lutheran Services in Atlanta. He said the company would have taken as many refugees as he could refer. The agency connected East Coast with refugees who had been in the country
    three to five years, he said.”

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2009-09-13-plants_N.htm
    Immigration raids yield jobs for legal workers

    ‘When federal agents descended on six meatpacking plants owned by Swift & Co. in December 2006, they rounded up nearly 1,300 suspected illegal immigrants that made up about 10% of the labor force at the plants.

    But the raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents did not cripple the company or the plants. In fact, they were back up and running at full staff within months by replacing those removed with a significant number of native-born Americans, according to a report by the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS).

    “Whenever there’s an immigration raid, you find white, black and legal immigrant labor lining up to do those jobs that Americans will supposedly not do,” said Swain, who teaches law and political science.”

More From Greenhouse Grower's GROW...
Laura Drotleff

April 23, 2018

Opinion: Why the Floriculture Industry Must Be Willing to “Humble Brag” About Itself

There is potential for our industry to provide talking points for growers to promote sustainable production efforts. It’s not exactly bragging — it’s simply and humbly speaking the truth.

Read More
Griffin-Massachusetts-Cannabis-Workshop

April 23, 2018

Griffin Hosting Cannabis Growers Workshop in May

The half-day program in Colorado will focus on several aspects of crop fertility and nutrition delivery strategies.

Read More
AFE-Flower-Marketing-Videos

April 20, 2018

Your Weekly Chance to Market the Positive Vibes That Flowers Bring

Each week between now and the end of the year, American Floral Endowment will post a new video promoting flowers.

Read More
Latest Stories
Laura Drotleff

April 23, 2018

Opinion: Why the Floriculture Industry Must Be Willing …

There is potential for our industry to provide talking points for growers to promote sustainable production efforts. It’s not exactly bragging — it’s simply and humbly speaking the truth.

Read More
Dickman-Farms-Carve-and-Brew-Event

March 26, 2018

How Dickman Farms Used a New Event to Expand Its Custom…

Last fall, Dickman Farms hosted “Carve & Brew,” a new event in which young adults were able to carve a pumpkin, taste craft brews from two local microbreweries, and relax with friends and neighbors.

Read More
Mason-Day-GrowIt-Feature

March 22, 2018

Why Your Efforts to Sell Plants Fall Short and What You…

It’s time to look at outside industries for ideas and inspiration on what we can do to operate more efficiently in today’s economy.

Read More
Seed-Your-Future-Dinner

March 20, 2018

Seed Your Future Dinner Celebrates Focus on New, Young …

During a Seed Your Future Leadership Meeting Fundraiser dinner at Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania's Ag Secretary thanked the Seed Your Future initiative for its efforts to create awareness of horticulture and careers in horticulture.

Read More
Tom-Demaline-Willoway-Nurseries-feature

March 1, 2018

7 Ways You Can Control Your Business Destiny With Lawma…

As business owners and industry leaders, your job description should include being active and engaged in our political system.

Read More
Steve Garvey, Dallas Johnson Greenhouses

February 25, 2018

How Two Leading Greenhouse Growers Are Committed to Qua…

Greenhouse Grower recently asked its two most recent Head Grower Excellence in Quality award winners about the steps they take to improve plant quality. Here’s what they had to say.

Read More
employee-reviewing-shipping-list

February 21, 2018

Four Ways to Get Your Staff to Care About Quality

It can be a challenge to convince your employees to care as much as you do about your business and the quality of products you are providing. Here are four suggestions for making this happen.

Read More
Company-Culture-at-AgBiome

January 22, 2018

Four Ways to Attract Employees With a New Approach to C…

AgBiome is a participative, self-managed organization where no one has a boss. Instead, employees self-assemble as teams around organizational issues that need to be tackled, and internal experts help drive important decisions.

Read More
CareerUp

December 27, 2017

How CareerUp Helps Young Professionals Level-Up

The mission of CareerUp is to equip young professionals with the skills to maximize their career potential.

Read More
Nathan-Nordstedt-in-the-Greenhouse-feature

December 26, 2017

Richard T. Meister Scholarship Winner Encourages Indust…

This year’s scholarship winner says young people need experiences that challenge them and allow for creativity and innovation.

Read More
GROW

December 21, 2017

Greenhouse Grower’s GROW Initiative: How You Made…

To create a competitive advantage, you must consistently experiment with and learn from new ideas. Greenhouse Grower’s GROW initiative provides you with cutting-edge ideas and actionable advice that results in greater profits in everyone’s pocket.

Read More

December 15, 2017

Your AFE Donations Will Be Matched Between Now and the …

Between now and December 1, any donations made to the American Floral Endowment will be matched up to $20,000.

Read More
HortScholars

December 8, 2017

HortScholars Program Now Accepting Applications for 201…

Do you know any college students currently in a horticulture-related program? This unique program gives them a chance to connect with industry leaders and make new connections at Cultivate.

Read More
GROW-Summit-2017-Group-Photo

December 5, 2017

GROW Summit 2017 Tackles Marketing and Business Managem…

This year’s think-tank style event brought together leaders from across the green industry to deliberate on topics such as disruptive marketing, cost accounting, and Millennials, to name a few.

Read More
Photo-with-Endless-Summer-Hydrangea

November 27, 2017

Why It’s Important to Get to Know Consumers at th…

One way to learn about consumer behavior is to get boots on the ground and engage with them.

Read More
Seed-Your-Future-feature

November 9, 2017

Dümmen Orange Throws Support Behind Seed Your Future In…

Dümmen Orange has announced it will pledge $450,000 over the next three years to Seed Your Future, the non-profit organization whose mission is to promote horticulture in the U.S. and inspire people to pursue careers working with plants.

Read More

November 1, 2017

Thanks to the 2018 GROW Sponsors

There are a number of industry organizations that help make Greenhouse Grower’s GROW Initiative a success.

Read More
Marshall Dirks, Proven Winners

October 28, 2017

5 Rules for Creating a Lifetime of Outdoor Garden Memor…

Many customers are time starved. Their most important asset is time, not money, so be realistic about the investment of both when they are buying plants.

Read More