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|Wednesday, June 12, 2013|
BY BARRY BUSHUE | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
Summer is close at hand, and thanks to farm families and their employees, we can soon enjoy the bounty of fresh, local items Oregonians cherish: succulent strawberries, marionberries, blueberries, apples and pears, and dozens of other seasonal treasures straight from the farm to your table. We’ll enjoy fine Oregon wine and the wonderful landscape plantings around our homes, businesses, and public spaces.
Our farm families raise about 250 different types of crops, making Oregon one of the most agriculturally diverse states in the nation. Many of these specialty crops, including fruits, wine grapes, and nursery products, are delicate and labor-intensive, requiring skilled, careful hand-harvesting within a very specific timeframe to get them from the farm to you. Our state is consistently in the top 10 nationally for reliance on on-farm employees to get this important work done, and done well.
On-farm jobs are demanding, require skill and precision, and can earn employees well above the state minimum wage. But even in a tough economy, most Americans simply aren’t interested in agricultural work, whatever the pay.
As we rely on employees from other countries to do this essential work, our broken system has devolved from a set of bureaucratic hurdles into a virtual barrier. Farm families do their best to hire employees with the correct documentation, but have their hands tied by limited information and resources, and legal jeopardy in verifying employable status. The federal government has increased border security and enforcement without improving processes for employees to obtain or document their status. The federal “E-verify” system is unreliable, subjecting employers to discrimination lawsuits and legally employable people to erroneous denial of jobs with its high error rate.
Beyond the headline-grabbing documentation issues, the current H-2a program is simply not designed for the diversified family-scale agriculture we have in Oregon. Of Oregon’s 40,000 farms, only six believe H-2a can work for them.
The importance of solving this challenge is not limited to the family farm. Agriculture is Oregon’s second-largest industry. Without a legal, skilled, and reliable workforce, Oregon’s economy and quality of life suffer. And if consumers like their food grown locally, something has to change.
Congress recognized many of these issues when it developed immigration reform legislation in the early part of this century. Sen. Ron Wyden and then-Sen. Gordon Smith were among the leaders who crafted bipartisan legislation to address our system’s shortcomings. The national state of shock after 9/11 put an end to that effort’s chances.
Today, we have the best chance in over a decade to enact improvements that will strengthen border security, clarify employable status, and provide the kind of process Oregon farm families need to legally employ the capable people they depend on.
Farm Bureau’s agricultural labor principles include:
Most of these principles survived the rigorous bipartisan process in the U.S. Senate, which culminated in S 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. This spring, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill, and as this article goes to print, debate on S 744 is scheduled to begin on the Senate floor.
Oregon Farm Bureau has worked with Oregon’s congressional delegation to discuss the need for a new visa program, as well as what key components it must include, to ensure it is viable, workable, sustainable, and affordable. With the thorough groundwork done by the Ag Workforce Coalition and the serious engagement of U.S. Senators from both parties, Farm Bureau is optimistic that we can achieve a reasonable, practical, common-sense solution that works for growers, respects employees, and meets the needs of both.
The need is immediate. The opportunity is here. The time is now.
Barry Bushue is president of the Oregon Farm Bureau. He runs a family nursery stock and berry operation near Boring, Oregon.
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY JOE CORTRIGHT
The Knight challenge is an important instance of philanthropy. But we should not assume it will magically transform OHSU into a business- and job-spinning engine for the local economy.
Wednesday, April 01, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
Leaders in Oregon's ag sector gathered this morning in Portland’s Coopers Hall winery/taproom to discuss the role of the region as an export gateway, impediments to exporting products and solutions to containerized shipping challenges.
Wednesday, May 20, 2015
BY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR
An earthquake would completely destroy many Oregon businesses, highlighting the urgent need for the private and public sectors to collaborate on shoring up disaster preparedness, said panelists at an Oregon Business breakfast summit today.
Friday, April 17, 2015
PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN
The 32nd annual CBC attracted a record number of attendees (11,000) to the Oregon Convention Center.
Friday, March 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
Founded 12 years ago, Keen Inc. likes to push the envelope, starting with the debut of the “Newport” closed toe sandal in 2003. Since then, the company has opened a factory on Swan Island and a sleek new headquarters in the Pearl District. The brand’s newest offering, UNEEK, is a sandal made from two woven cords and not much more.
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN
Companies can benefit when they use software to meet staffing requirements and address employees' family and life commitments.
Wednesday, April 08, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
The Wilsonville-based company is targeting GoPro enthusiasts with its latest release. Is spy gear poised to go mainstream?
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New conference aims to solve challenges, quell fears amid regulatory changes.
Tourism marketing supports entrepreneurship by attracting visitors to all corners of the state.
Beaverton firm's business intelligence platform rivals that of industry heavyweights.
The Oregon Entrepreneurs Network (OEN) will be presenting its third annual Entrepreneurial Summit on Friday, June 5 at Castaway in Portland, Oregon.
On June 13th Mayor Charlie Hales will attend nonprofit organization Dream Change’s inaugural Love Summit and will introduce one of its keynote speakers, Dan Wieden of Wieden+Kennedy advertising agency.
34 spots for food, 17 places to sip, and 7 sites to choose a brew beckon visitors.