FFVA discusses labor concerns with Sen. Rubio’s staff

04/12/2013 12:20:00 PM
Lisa Lochridge

Producers and representatives from various statewide grower organizations gathered recently to discuss immigration reform at FFVA's Maitland office with members of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's district staff.

The informational discussion focused on the unique needs of agricultural employers as talks continue in Congress on a comprehensive overhaul of immigration law.

Rubio has taken the lead on the issue, laying out plans of his own for legislation. Susan Fernandez and Mercedes Ayala Pierce from Rubio's Orlando office listened to comments from growers and provided details on the senator's framework for legislation. Central Florida Rep. Bryan Nelson, R-Apopka, also was a guest.

FFVA members talked about their workforce needs and the pros and cons of the current H-2A guest worker program.

Mike Carlton, FFVA’s director of labor relations, discussed work being done on the issue in Washington on behalf of the industry by the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, a broad alliance of ag organizations from across the country. (FFVA is a founding member).

The staffers also heard from Georgia grower Bill Brim, past president of the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Association. Brim discussed the economic losses experienced by producers and the industry as a result of Georgia's tough immigration law passed in 2010.

Although this year presents the best opportunity since 2007 for immigration reform, there is still heavy lifting ahead for all interested groups – agriculture, the general business community, and farmworker groups – to reach a solution.

A call for young leaders

Are you an up-and-coming leader who wants to be more involved in FFVA and Florida specialty crop agriculture? You may be eligible for Class 3 of FFVA’s Emerging Leader Development Program.

Beginning April 1, the application process will be open to individuals ages 25 to 40 from an FFVA producer or trade associate member’s organization or family. Applicants must be working in or pursuing a career in Florida’s specialty crop industry.

A class of 10 members will be selected for the one-year program beginning in September.

The program identifies potential leaders and prepares them to be strong advocates for Florida specialty crop agriculture. Graduates leave the program with a depth of knowledge of the issues facing agriculture and the tools to deal with those issues. In doing so, they are well-suited to improve the economic viability of specialty crop agriculture and grassroots involvement in FFVA.

The sessions include a trip to Tallahassee to meet with legislators, seminars provided by FFVA staff members and other experts on current issues, venues to study environmental issues and water management, and visits to specialty crop production areas in Florida and California.

Applications may be found on FFVA’s website at ffva.com/Leaders. Applicants must submit their completed forms with a supervisor's approval by May 1 to Sonia.Tighe@ffva.com or by fax to (813) 975-1772. Contact Tighe at (813) 975-8377 with any questions.

FDA announces cantaloupe inspections

 The Food and Drug Administration will begin inspecting U.S. cantaloupe packinghouses to assess current practices and to identify unsanitary conditions that could affect the safety of product on its way to consumers. The agency also will target imported cantaloupes at the border for sampling.

A new resource is available for companies that grow, harvest, sort, pack, process or ship cantaloupes in developing production practices that reduce the risk of contamination.

The “National Commodity-Specific Food Safety Guidelines for Cantaloupes and Netted Melons” (www.cantaloupe-guidance.org) was developed and released by a coalition of industry and academic experts, government scientists and regulators.

Anyone involved in the production, harvesting, packing, cooling, storage and transporting of fresh uncut cantaloupes is strongly encouraged to use this guidance to develop specific preventive food safety programs and practices to address risk and minimize microbial hazards.

The FDA also refers to its own resources and guidance: “Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fruits and Vegetables” and “Guidance for Industry: Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards of Melons.”

Lochridge is the director of public affairs for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association in Maitland. She can be reached at (321) 214-5206 or lisalochrdige@ffva.com.

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