OFA Bulletin May/June 2011 : Page 3

May/June 2011 • N u m b e r 9 2 7 the dust of the 2010 elections has settled, it is abundantly – and unfortunately – clear that there is no hope in this Congress for passage of comprehensive immigration reform, covering all workers in the economy. However, we must continue to work for agriculture, which has unique needs and is in a unique situation. Enforcement and audit efforts are increasing and are focused on employers. As many as 75 percent of U.S. agriculture’s workers are unauthorized. The new H-2A guestworker regulations are unworkable. Employers are having a more difficult time finding workers, and still have no reliable way of verifying documents. Agriculture across the U.S. is feeling the pain. Our most urgent need, as I write this article, is to avoid passage of “enforcement only” legislation, without the other “two legs of the three-legged stool”: guestworker reform and a way to authorize those workers who are already here. All three components are necessary for an effective solution to our current crisis. Mandatory enforcement without a way to maintain our current workforce and to obtain new workers will rob agriculture of most of its workforce. We, of course, support secure, well-managed borders and effective enforcement. SAF, as part of the Agriculture Coalition on Immigration Reform (ACIR), is willing to work with Congress and the Administration on an effective, improved E-Verify (electronic verification of documents) program – but only if the solution also includes realistic legal ways to maintain and obtain a productive, legally authorized workforce. The electronic verification program, “E-Verify,” is currently voluntary in most states, and an estimated 5 percent to 11 percent of employers used it in 2010, although the number of users continues to grow. A small number of states (including Arizona) have made it mandatory. The program could eventually be useful, but questions have been raised about its accuracy. In addition, identity fraud remains a problem, because employers may not be able to tell if employees are presenting genuine documents that are borrowed or stolen. Our nation’s food supply and its agricultural economy (plus the three to five jobs that are supported in communities as a result of agriculture) are at risk. At this writing, we are working both in the House and the Senate to try to forge a solution for agriculture. Stay tuned – and please be prepared to communicate with your representatives in Congress on this issue. It’s difficult to generate support for immigration reform amid the noise of the anti-immigrant forces. But for one politician or radio talk show host grandstanding about the evils of illegal immigration, there are hundreds of thoughtful Americans who are actually interested in working to solve the problem. Congress needs to hear from them. importing and/or moving pests or diseases which might harm, say, cotton or potatoes. In other instances, environmental groups target the ornamentals industry. As the topic of “invasives” gains traction, more attention is being focused on the possibility of regulating plant movement through certified or approved “systems approach” programs, rather than by inspection of individual shipments. Many such approaches are currently under discussion, and it is imperative that the ornamentals industry be involved in order to prevent imposition of unworkable schemes on the industry. Essentially, a systems approach is modeled on the concept of the “HACCP” approach which is used in many segments of the food industry. “HACCP” (Hazard Analysis of Critical Control Points) relies on targeting specific key points in a production process to control or mitigate the risk of a problem passing through one or more of those points without being detected and/or eliminated. This regulatory topic is still relatively in its infancy – but growers need to be thinking about it. A systems approach will only work if it is based on the realities of crop production and designed with thoughtful grower input. By the time you read this USDA will likely have published the next phase of the Quarantine-37 regulation revision. Q-37 is the regulation governing the import of “plants-for-planting,” including seeds. Watch for alerts from SAF and ANLA, because new proposals are likely to raise questions on which we need grower input. Again, stay tuned! Get to Know Congress! The efforts of the industry in putting a face on floriculture are really “worth their weight in gold.” Congress must hear the voice of business – and Congress listens best when it is hearing that voice from business owners themselves – sitting in Capitol Hill offices, right there on the spot. And if you can’t actually come to Washington, that doesn’t mean your voice can’t be heard. E-mails, attending district office meetings, and just paying attention to what your representatives are saying and doing is important. Log onto www.safnow.org and click on “Write to Congress.” It’s easy. Enter your zip code and find out who your congressman or congresswoman is. Then, log onto www.house.gov or www.senate.gov, go to their web page, and find out more about them. It will help you to better communicate and it will help our Congress to do a better job. Pictures are usually worth far more than a thousand words. Inviting a lawmaker to visit your business is extremely helpful in creating more understanding of how businesses operate and creating channels of ongoing communication. Getting your information from reliable sources is increasingly important. And, of course, staying in touch with your trade associations – SAF, ANLA, OFA, and others – makes our voice louder, clearer, and more effective. It’s not rocket science – it’s just common sense and hard work! Lin Schmale Senior Director of Government Relations Society of American Florists 1601 Duke Street Alexandria, VA 22314 703-836-8700 LSchmale@safnow.oryg Certification of Production Facilities – Onshore and Offshore? As global trade increases, the pressure on the ornamentals industry has become intense to avoid or control the movement of invasive plants and of invasive pests which can travel with plants and flowers. The ornamentals industry is often singled out, because it moves its products around the nation and around the world – and often establishes them in the environment. In some instances, fairly or not, the ornamentals industry is targeted by other agricultural sectors, who blame us for OFA Bulletin 3

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