The California State Board of Food and Agriculture will address agricultural labor issues at its upcoming meeting on Aug. 7.
"Agricultural labor is about people, families and communities," said CDFA Secretary Karen Ross. "The report California Ag Vision, Strategies for Sustainability calls for private sector initiatives, administrative measures and legislation to adopt a suite of policies and actions to assure a strong labor force through fairness to agricultural workers and employers. The food production that starts in the fields and orchards of California is highly reliant upon hand labor, and we need to take a strong leadership role to ensure we are responsive to the needs of employees and employers."
Nationally, approximately 75 percent of farm workers are foreign born and 72 percent were born in Mexico, according to a National Agricultural Workers Survey published in 2009. About half of California's crop workers are unauthorized, according to the same survey. California is the largest agricultural producer in the nation, representing approximately 16 percent of national crop receipts and 7 percent of U.S. revenue for livestock and livestock products.
Scheduled speakers include: Carol House, Committee on National Statistics; Craig Regelbrugge, Agricultural Coalition for Immigration Reform; Monte Lake, CJ Lake, LLC; Guadalupe Sandoval, California Farm Labor Contractors Association; Jeanne Malitz, American Immigration Lawyers Association; Ellen Brokaw, Brokaw Nursery, LLC; Tom Collishaw, Self-Help Enterprises; and Manuel Cunha, Nisei Farmers League.
"As farmers we struggle to meet our labor needs in the fields and this impacts consumers," said President Craig McNamara, California State Board of Food and Agriculture. "Unless we develop forward thinking solutions at the national level, we will see undesirable changes on supermarket shelves and in our farming communities."
The meeting will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Santa Cruz Country Fairgrounds (Harvest Hall), 2601 East Lake Avenue, Watsonville.
The California State Board of Food and Agriculture advises the governor and the CDFA secretary on agricultural issues and consumer needs. The state board conducts forums that bring together local, state and federal government officials, agricultural representative and citizens to discuss current issues of concern to California agriculture.