WHEREAS, in order to ensure the future of its agriculture, which is a labor-intensive industry in a state where the minimum wage is rising by $2.00 per hour over a two-year period, New Jersey must not only preserve its farmland, but also address the needs of its farm workforce; and in response to this issue, the Department has established a three-part approach to farm labor issues in New Jersey, which encompasses the following areas:
- Ensuring an adequate, qualified and legal workforce; and
- Advocating for decent, safe and sanitary housing; and
- Encouraging ongoing worker education programs; and
WHEREAS, all three areas are of equal importance and interwoven; and
WHEREAS, many workers on farms are non-citizen guest workers; and
WHEREAS, in ensuring an adequate, legal farm labor workforce, the problem of illegal immigration must be addressed on the Federal level; and the federal government must create a counterfeit-resistant identification system, establish an earned adjustment of status program, and reform the current practices for obtaining temporary agricultural worker visas; and
WHEREAS, all farm laborers have the right to live and work in a safe environment and earn a fair wage, yet we cannot support legislation that would result in New Jersey farmers suffering a competitive disadvantage with neighboring states; and
WHEREAS, workers have the right to decent, safe and sanitary housing; and
WHEREAS, labor supply and training are key for sustaining and growing the agricultural industry in New Jersey; as such, programs that support worker training, health and safety, and address issues such as housing, will be part of the Department’s outreach and education efforts.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the delegates to the 91st State Agriculture Convention, assembled in Atlantic City, New Jersey on February 7, 2006, support the efforts of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to ensure a stable source of well-trained and legal farm workers, and that we support efforts to ensure the proper training and education of the farm work force, especially as it relates to worker health and safety.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the immediate adoption and implementation of federal legislation which reforms the policies and procedures surrounding temporary agricultural worker visas, creates counterfeit-resistant identification and establishes an earned adjustment of status program.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the use of USDA Farm Labor Housing Programs to address the housing requirements needed to provide decent, safe and sanitary living conditions for the agricultural workforce.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we request that the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) streamline the process for obtaining temporary visas for farm workers under the H2A certification process, or establish a streamlined guest worker certification process for agricultural workers that is separate from the H2A certification process. In addition, we urge Congress and USDOL to streamline the guest worker program and permanently lift the 66,000 per year cap on H2B workers.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we support the efforts of the New Jersey Department of Agriculture to work with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development and Rutgers University through the Agricultural Development Initiative to develop labor training programs that help increase farm productivity, literacy, fluency in English, worker health and safety, and labor’s overall contribution to the bottom line; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, New Jersey Farm Bureau and NJAES/Rutgers University to work cooperatively with the Governor and the Legislature to develop an agricultural assistance program to offset the economic impact of the state minimum wage increase on labor costs. Absent such assistance New Jersey farmers will suffer a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace, severely impacting farm viability. Any such program must include components that directly address the additional labor costs to farmers that result from the scheduled minimum wage increase.