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Farm Labor

WHEREAS, from the planting and harvesting of grains, fruits and vegetables, to the daily care of plants and animals, agriculture is a labor-intensive industry; and while most farms in New Jersey are family-owned and operated, many of them need to hire additional labor in order to operate successfully; and
WHEREAS, in order to ensure the future of its agriculture, New Jersey must not only preserve its farmland, but also address the needs of its farm workforce; and
WHEREAS, ensuring the availability of an adequate, legal farm labor workforce must be addressed on both the state and federal level; and the federal government needs to create a counterfeit-resistant identification system, needs to establish an earned adjustment of status program, and needs to reform the current practices for obtaining temporary agricultural worker visas; and
WHEREAS, Congress has thus far failed to address immigration reform in a comprehensive manner that would establish a clear path to legal status and provide for an adequate seasonal workforce through guest worker programs to be relied upon by agriculture and related industries which cannot attract enough current United States citizens to fill their labor needs; and
WHEREAS, instead, Congress has considered legislation mandating that employers use an error-prone database (E-Verify) to check the legal status of prospective employees, and that those employers be held legally responsible for decisions that may result in workers of non-legal status being hired; and
WHEREAS, a Farm Credit analysis of the impacts of an E-Verify-type system being implemented without first establishing an adequate agricultural guest worker program shows severe impact to farm operations, including the likelihood of farmers either switching to non-labor-intensive crops or going out of business; and
WHEREAS, labor supply and training are key for sustaining and growing the agricultural industry in New Jersey, and programs that support worker training, health and safety, and address issues such as housing, are and will continue to be part of the Department’s outreach and education efforts.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 97h State Agricultural Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on January 18-19, 2012, support the efforts of the Department to ensure a stable source of well-trained and legal farm workers, and that we support efforts to ensure the proper training and education of the farm work force, especially as it relates to worker health and safety.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the immediate adoption and implementation of federal legislation which reforms the policies and procedures for temporary agricultural worker visas, creates counterfeit-resistant identification to ensure the availability and supply of farm labor, both seasonal and year-round, and that we urge the New Jersey Congressional Delegation to support these efforts in both the House and Senate.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we strongly urge federal lawmakers and policy directors to delay the implementation of any E-Verify or other employer-driven legal status verification system until after the passage and implementation of an agricultural guest worker program that will ensure sufficient labor for America’s farmers.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we urge the Department, New Jersey Farm Bureau and New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station to work cooperatively with the Governor and the Legislature to develop an agricultural education program to help farmers navigate through complex federal guest-worker programs.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the use of USDA Farm Labor Housing Programs to address the housing requirements needed to provide decent, safe and sanitary living conditions for the agricultural workforce.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we request that the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) streamline the process for obtaining temporary visas for a farm-worker verification process and establish a streamlined guest worker certification process for agricultural workers, including the farm-labor workforce that may have worked on our farm operations for a number of years but did not have, in the past, a legal status.