January 2017, Volume 23, Number 1
Consolidated Citrus was found in December 2016 to be a joint employer of H-2A workers with FLC Ruiz Harvesting under the Fair Labor Standards Act, but perhaps not for the purposes of the H-2A program. Consolidated Citrus paid Ruiz to harvest its oranges under piece-rate wages, and was required to ensure that they earned at least the Adverse Effect Wage Rate.
Workers who did not earn the AEWR received supplemental pay so that they received at least the minimum wage, but they were required to return the extra pay to Ruiz or risk being fired and returned to Mexico. The workers sued both Ruiz and Consolidated Citrus, which said that it was not aware of what Ruiz was doing. Consolidated Citrus was found to be a joint employer under FLSA, but will have an opportunity to show that it should not be liable for breach of H-2A contracts.
Florida's 47,000 farms had cash receipts of $8.5 billion in 2014, led by $1.2 billion worth of oranges. Palm Beach county had $1 billion in farm sales, followed by $600 million in Miami-Dade and $500 million in Hendry. Farm sales have been stable, as they were $8.3 billion in 2011, including $1.5 billion for oranges. Citrus greening has reduced orange production, and some farm land has been converted into housing. Greenhouse and nursery crops are poised to overtake oranges as the state's leading commodity.
Georgia's farm sales exceed those of Florida. One reason is that tobacco farmers switched to blueberries, whose sales now exceed those of Georgia peaches. Georgia's leading commodities are chickens and beef, followed by cotton, eggs and timber.