Good Fruit Grower

May 1

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Page 18 of 47 Good Fruit Grower MAY 1, 2015 19 Growers who hire H-2A workers must also pay other employees the same wage for the same job, but different rules apply about the benefits they are entitled to. Growers will have to decide whether to provide them with health care under provisions of the Affordable Care Act. "Treat them like regular workers," Fazio said. Affordable Care Act rules governing what employers must provide apply to H-2A workers as well. (See "Who needs health coverage?") One of the most important services WAFLA and GLALS will provide is end-to-end contracts. As ordinary migrant laborers, workers could put together their own annual work program moving farm to farm, crop to crop. But H-2A workers must have contracts with individual growers covering distinct periods of time and locations of work. That contract feature is still in place, but WAFLA and GLALS, working with multiple crops and multiple growers, can keep H-2A employees working and moving. Get fruit picked Growers may not be too happy with the price they have to pay for H-2A labor, Fazio said, but the advantages are there. "You get better productivity and higher quality fruit because it is picked on time," he said. "Workers arrive when you need them, work for you, and want to come back every year." Not only is grower interest in H-2A increasing, but government resistance is melting, Fazio said. While H-2A was established by the government, many thought the bureaucrats showed very little interest in making it work. Now it is more evident that the farm labor shortage is real and that domestic workers have no interest in doing farm work. WAFLA works with CSI Labor Services, "the best agent in Mexico," according to Fazio. As experience builds, growers will be able to get the workers they prefer, com- ing back every year, and find more that are qualified to do the jobs they need done. Fazio thinks H-2A can be made to work. The labor shortage is growing, worldwide, and if American growers can't find suitable workers, they'll have to make dramatic changes in how they do business. Logical choice Katie Rasch was hired to work with GLALS after work- ing as part of the pilot program last year. Age 25, fluent in Spanish, and the daughter of grower Joe Rasch of Sparta, she was the farm's choice to work with Michigan Farm Bureau on the pilot program last year. The Rasches, like many in Michigan, lost most of their fruit crop to frosts in 2012. With no work, workers left for other places, and many did not come back in 2013. That was the shock that sent the Rasches to the pilot program. Katie was the logical choice to work with the program. As a youngster, she learned to speak S p a n i s h , w h i c h s h e majored in at Grand Valley State University. She also traveled for two years to Chile and other parts of Latin America. Back on the farm, she became the translator and took charge of quality control and labor management, drove the van transporting workers, and did payroll as well. The pilot H-2A program worked, she said. While the farm had to pay more for labor, it was easier to manage the group of 24 H-2A workers than the other 40 individu- als that arrived at varying times and required individual paperwork. For the first time, the farm had workers under contract and developed a structured training program to deal with them. So, this year, Rasch will have more farms to work with as an employee of Great Lakes Ag Labor Services. Officially, she is an employee of Michigan Farm Bureau, of which GLALS is an affiliate. This is not the first time Michigan Farm Bureau has stepped out to parent a fledgling organization. The Michigan Processing Apple Growers Association began in the same manner. • Katie Rasch CALIFORNIA 509-840-1828 WALLA WALLA 509-525-4550 PASCO 509-544-6678 SUNNYSIDE 509-839-2066 GEORGE 509-785-2595 CLE ELUM 509-674-4544 MATTAWA 509-932-4001 UNION GAP 509-248-8411 LABOR SAVING This new REVO apple harvesting system ensures quality fruit all the way to the bin. This self-propelled 4WD Fruit Harvester reduces picking time, labor costs and moves fruit faster, more gently and e ciently. Picking Platforms & New REVO Fruit Harvester Picking Platforms & New REVO Fruit Harvester REVO Fruit Harvesting System REVO Fruit Harvesting System Picking Ease From Platform Or Ground Picking Ease From Platform Or Ground Blueline OP33 Platform Blueline OP33 Platform Small, Compact, Stable And Quiet Small, Compact, Stable And Quiet Four Person Platform Four Person Platform • Adjustable Height and Width • Four Wheel Drive • Dual Speed Hydro • Kubota Diesel Engine • Auto Steering Gentle Bin Delivery Gentle Bin Delivery See Your Nearest Blueline Equipment Dealer Today. . . See Your Nearest Blueline Equipment Dealer Today. . .

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