Three days ago the calendar suggested that spring was here. We have already changed the clocks to allow us the maximum sun time. The question is, as you trade in your winter gear for short sleeves, are we ready for this season? Perhaps a better question is are we any better prepared to face the risks associated with growing the 2011 crop? I think we are and I will attempt to explain why in this report.
NYS Board of Directors from the Horticultural Society on February 10 traveled in unison to Capitol Hill to tell their Congressional members, in person, exactly how upset they were that there has been zero positive movement to relieve the guest worker issue back home. In fact, it could be actually stated, and they did, that because of the interference of the Federal Government it is now even more difficult to place legal farm workers on the land in New York State. Growers quoted financial costs that they were absorbing due to the failure of the Federal DOL to process their H2A documents in an efficient manner. They made this message on this day in both Senate offices and eight up-state Congressional offices. The message was loud and it was heard. How do I know it was heard? Two offices in particular were prompted into action directly as a result of these visits. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Congressman Bill Owens have been actively involved to set the process in a corrective mode. They are currently both leading efforts to streamline the H2A process, if for no other area than the growers of New York State. Senator Schumer is working in the Senate to deliver a package to move the immigration issue to a vote. Senator Gillibrand has been very active in setting up contacts for all growers to contact her office if they require assistance in this process. She has gathered and delivered a strong voice of protest to DOL and encouraged Homeland Security to find a quick solution to the Jamaican deductions issue so that we will not have a repeat of 2010. These actions would not have been taken if it were not for efforts made by your Board of Directors to travel to DC to make not only their case but that of all growers.
Congresswoman Slaughter is holding a question and answer for growers in her region to directly pose to the Federal DOL. Her insistence on this issue on March 30, 2011 will leave no doubt in the minds of those in the DOL offices that they are on the clock and expected to perform in a judicious and timely manner.