A Panel Hosted by the Packer
Norma joined frequent CIERTO collaborators Matt Rogers of AgSocio and Kenton Harmer, the Managing Director of the Equitable Food Exchange for an hour-long discussion of the challenges and benefits for growers of participating in the H-2A guest worker program.
CIERTO H-2A Program Director, Norma Encinas
Barriers to Entry
There are a few hurdles up front that can make it tough for growers to participate in the program, although – as Norma points out – there’s a growing movement within the industry to help growers over these obstacles.
For one thing, the requirements of the law itself are fairly complex, causing some growers to seek workers outside the bounds of the program. For another, some growers balk at the slightly higher up front cost to get started. There is also an administrative burden to run the program.
While some growers will attempt to participate in the program independently, there are downsides to this as well. Poor vetting of workers can allow for workers to slip through who have been recruited through so-called “alternative networks,” – a pathway that can lead to debt peonage or forced labor, even for growers who are trying to do the right thing.
CIERTO can relieve a lot of these administrative burdens.
In the end, the panelists agree on a couple of key points:
- Employees who are free of forced labor, fear-based migration, and debt peonage are better equipped to align their self interest with that of the farm.
- Good vetting and competent recruiting and training leads to productive workers, high quality produce, and good food safety practices.
- Keep your buyers name out of the media.
There’s so much more at the link, from Norma, and some great commentary from Kenton and Matt, so be sure to click through and check it out. Free registration is required, but it’s totally worth the extra minute or so it takes to fill out the form.