CCOF Calls for Immigration Reform to Protect the Agricultural Workforce

One of the greatest challenges facing organic growers today is the uncertainty and severe shortages in the agricultural workforce. For this reason, CCOF is calling on California Congressional leadership to work toward immigration reform that includes the following guiding principles: 

  • First and foremost, legislation should create a viable means for the current unauthorized, experienced agricultural workforce to legally work in U.S. agriculture.  
  • Additionally, a guestworker program could also provide much needed support to help meet the current shortages in the agricultural workforce. The guestworker program should be constructed with the following principles:

o There should not be a cap on the number of allowed workers under the guestworker program, because the shortages are so severe that California agriculture alone would consume the entirety of any proposed cap.  

o There should be no touchback provision, which is a provision requiring guestworkers to return to their home country after a certain time period before they are eligible to return under the guestworker program. Unlike other states, California needs guestworkers year-round to fulfill its production needs. 

o U.S. producers should be able to hire guestworkers “at will,” rather than under prescribed contracts, to ensure that workers can work on multiple farms and meet the diverse needs of the different areas of the state at different times of the year. 

o There should not be mandated e-verify system (an internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States) without a system to change the legal status of the current, unauthorized workforce, because many experienced, reliable California workers could not pass the e-verify process as it currently stands. 

o There should be no increase in wages above state and local minimum wage requirements because there are not domestic workers competing for these jobs, and California producers already pay the maximum minimum and overtime wages.  

o There should not be a requirement that 10 percent of workers’ wages be withheld until they return to their country of origin because workers should receive adequate compensation for work performed, and as addressed above, workers would likely stay in California year-round without returning to their country of origin.     

  o Housing vouchers are a viable option to providing housing to guestworkers.