January 2019, Volume 25, Number 1
Midwest, Northeast, Northwest
Maine. Maine has a rising number of farms, 8,200 in 2017 according to the Census of Agriculture, and fewer farm workers. Dairies and the blueberry industry have embraced more mechanization.
New Jersey. New Jersey's largest peach farm, 1,000 acre Larchmont Farms in Elmer, used 140 H-2A workers in 2018 and plans to build housing to employ 200 H-2A workers by 2023. National Agricultural Consultants recruits H-2A workers for Larchmont in Hidalgo and Chiapas, Mexico.
Washington. Selah-based Larson Fruit in October 2018 agreed to rehire 18 H-2A workers who say they were blacklisted after going on strike in September 2017 to protest unsafe working conditions; three striking workers were fired. Larson will also pay the workers up to $275,800. Larson uses WAFLA to recruit workers in Mexico.
The 2017 Larson strike was settled with the three fired workers reinstated, a supervisor fired, and a promise of no blacklisting. However, Larson did not put the 18 workers on the rehire list in 2018, even while hiring the same 156 H-2A workers who did not strike, leading to the suit and settlement.
An H-2A worker died at Sarbanand Farms owned by David and Kable Munger in August 2017. Some of the other H-2A workers complained of?inadequate food and smoky air, and 65 of the several hundred who refused to work were fired.
The fired H-2A workers sued, and in December 2018 a federal?judge allowed a class-action suit alleging that Sarbanand violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, by requiring forced labor and using threats and implied threats that the workers would be sent to?Mexico if they complained or did not meet production standards. The recruiter, CSI Visa Processing, faces charges that it did not disclose Sarbanand's production standard to the workers when they were recruited in Mexico.
There were 30,200 farm jobs in Yakima county in Fall 2017, up from 22,100 in Fall 2007, as agriculture continues to expand. Gala apples have replaced Red Delicious as the leading variety, and acreage of Honeycrisp and Cripps Pink is expanding rapidly; Cosmic Crisp is on the horizon. Most new plantings use dwarf rootstocks and develop fruiting walls with trellis-type growing systems.
Ramon Torres was a berry picker at Sakuma Farms who in 2013 protested retaliation against workers who wanted higher wages. Torres founded Familias Unidas por la Justicia, which signed a two-year collective bargaining agreement with Sakuma in 2017. Familias is now trying to organize workers at nearby farms in northwest Washington, many of whom are Mixtec and Triqui indigenous migrants from Oaxaca and Guerrero.