AFOP 2014 National Conference Registration now Open

The AFOP 2014 National Conference is quickly approaching and it is time to make your plans. The conference will be in beautiful San Diego, CA and span September 23-25.

Register here.

Friday, September 26 will be a special outing to CET, our local AFOP member agency, to share and discuss Best Practices. This special opportunity is only for management and has only a limited number of slots, so please be sure to make your reservation early!

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jim jonesPost by: Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention (OCSPP) – Jim Jones

Two million farmworkers help grow, tend and harvest the food that we put on our tables every day. They are the mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers whose hard work and long days enable us to have healthy, plentiful food. They are often exposed to hazards from pesticide exposures and need the same workplace protection that other industry workers have had for decades.

It’s been 20 years since the rules providing protections to farmworkers were updated. In February of this year, the agency proposed for public comment on a revised Worker Protection Standard. The proposal is the result of numerous discussions across the country with farm workers, farm owners, states and others on what is working, what is not, and what needs to be improved when it comes to the current rule.

Today, we are extending the public comment period until August 18  in response to requests from growers, industry, states and farmworker advocates. We want to ensure that a diverse set of stakeholders have an opportunity to make their voices heard so that we have a protective and workable rule for years to come.

The opportunity to revise the rule may not come again for some time, so we are committed to getting it right. Since February we have had mass e-mailings, numerous conference calls, webinars, and meetings with farm workers, their advocates, state enforcement regulators, growers, and others to explain the revisions and get input. Between now and the end of the comment period we will continue this expansive communication effort.

Updating the 20-year old regulation to provide more protections to farmworkers from pesticide exposure is a priority for EPA. The proposed revisions include mandatory pesticide safety training every year versus every five years and the addition of a “no entry” buffer areas of 25-100 feet around fields where pesticides are being applied. It includes a first-time minimum age requirement for handling pesticides, mandatory posting of warning signs around treated areas for the more hazardous pesticides, mandatory record keeping for two years, and mandates that information regarding pesticide hazards and their applications be available to farm workers and their advocates. The proposed rule continues the exemptions for family members working on family farms.

The comment period ends August 18. We encourage you to comment on the proposal  in English or in Spanish

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Joint Ministerial Declaration

Daniel SheehanU.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez recently signed a joint ministerial declaration with Mexican Secretary of Labor and Social Welfare, Jesús Alfanso Navarrete Prida, designed to help improve the lives of migrant and seasonal farmworkers (MSFW) working hard to harvest the foods that we eat every day. AFOP thanks Secretary Perez for his continued commitment to farmworkers and applauds this important step in his goal of “helping ensure that all workers in the United States know their rights and that all employers know their responsibilities under the law.”

With its child labor campaign, Children in the Fields, and its Health and Safety Programs, AFOP strives for the same goals, working hard to improve the lives MSFWs across the United States. Through AFOP’s Health and Safety Program, our association members, in the previous five years, have educated over 200,000 farmworkers about how to better protect themselves on the job, and Children in the Fields works every day to educate families, growers, and policy makers about the plight of children employed in agriculture and the very real and pressing need to give them a chance to succeed.

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Sharing the Power in Their Stories

normaStorytelling is an important component to the human experience — to entertain us, to teach us, to keep the spirit of those who came before us alive. To quote Ursula K. Le Guin: “There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.”

When it comes to social change, storytelling can be one of the most powerful tools we have. Stories allow us to engage the reader and make a personal connection with them, inspiring them to take action.

The Children in the Fields Campaign has long been an advocate for farmworker children, taking on the important work of uplifting their stories from the fields and bringing them to our Nation’s Capital.

Each year, we host an essay and art contest for farmworker children (link:  http://afop.org/children-in-the-fields/connect-with-cif/). Children from farmworker families share their incredible stories from across the country and allow us to showcase the talent that is often hidden within the farmworker community. Children share the stories of their parents’ struggle to grasp on to the American Dream; the hardships faced while working under the hot summer sun with no water in sight; of their dream to one day break the cycle of poverty their family has been trapped in. This year’s contest theme is “From Our Hands to Your Table,” which reminds us of the small hands that sacrifice so much to provide us with the meals we enjoy with our families each day. Our contest winners will receive cash prizes to help them with the expenses of school supplies — something farmworker families struggle with every year and so many families take for granted. Our first prize winners will also enjoy a trip to San Diego to join us for AFOP’s National Conference in September.

In addition to collecting stories nationwide, we have worked directly with youth over the years, empowering them into becoming young leaders in their communities. Some of our most inspiring young activists are in North Carolina with the farmworker group Poder Juvenil Campesino (Link: http://www.ncfield.org/pjc.html). They use photography, Spoken Word poems and interviews with the media as ways to share the realities children in North Carolina’s fields face every day, and work to create a seat at the table of decision makers in their community.

This year, we worked in collaboration with Migrants in Action, Inc. (link: http://www.migrantsinaction.org) to create a Cesar E. Chavez Scholarship, which will be awarded to two outstanding youth from the Texas farmworker community. Both of the youth selected serve as role models to other farmworker youth for their outstanding academic achievement, but most importantly, for working towards improving the lives of their community through volunteer work and sharing their story. More details on the young scholarship recipients will be shared in the coming weeks.

These are just a few examples of how AFOP’s Children in the Fields Campaign has provided our farmworker youth with the opportunity to speak for themselves. As a former farmworker child myself, it was through the opportunities offered to me by the AFOP community that inspired me to become an advocate for my community. There is something transformative about realizing the power in your words to inspire others to care and to create a movement. I want to create that sense of empowerment for other farmworker children too.

All of our work was inspired and made possible by one of the greatest storytellers of our farmworker community: Cesar E. Chavez. He was able to elevate the struggles of farmworkers to the national stage and bring together families in supporting the efforts of the UFW. For the first time, his story is being told in theaters across the country today (link: http://www.cesarchavezmovie.com). I invite you to close out National Farmworker Awareness Week by taking your family and friends to watch the movie this weekend, so that together we can learn about his legacy and continue the important work he started. ¡Si Se Puede!

Norma Flores, Director of Children in the Fields Campaign

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Jobs Training for Migrant or Seasonal Farmworkers

katyThe stated mission of the National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP) is to “counter the chronic unemployment and underemployment experienced by Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers (MSFW) who depend primarily on jobs in agricultural labor performed within the United States and Puerto Rico.” The purpose of NFJP is to improve the lives of MSFWs and their families, either through direct assistance or through employment and training services.

What sounds on paper like a simple prospect, is in reality anything but. The challenges faced by farmworkers across the country are as varied as the crops they harvest. In the 2011 program year, 13,962 individuals received services from NFJP grantees, and 8,316 of those individuals participated in Employment and Training programs. Many Farmworkers have to face significant challenges and overcome many barriers before being ready for placement into full time employment. Lack of basic education, workplace readiness, and English langue skill gaps are common among Farmworkers as is a lack of transportation or access to public transportation. Many Farmworkers are single parents, struggling to support their children financially and in school. In addition to enrolling Farmworkers in education and training programs to reach their employment goals, NFJP grantees are also experts in helping Farmworkers build life skills like financial literacy, and connecting them with community resources that can help bring stability and support as they strive to achieve independence.

While it’s certainly true that a lot of Farmworkers participate in NFJP because they’re ready to move out of the fields, that’s not always the case—there are many people who take a great deal of pride in the work that they do harvesting crops that feed their communities. They love to be outdoors working with their hands and feel connected to the earth. The harsh reality is, most farm work is seasonal and does not pay enough to make a comfortable living or support a family. Through NFJP enrollment, farmworkers develop a plan to gain the skills and tools needed to find stability and full time employment both out of, and in agriculture.

When an NFJP grantee enrolls an individual for Employment and Training, they perform comprehensive assessments to identify everything from educational skill levels to other talents, aptitudes, and interests in order to develop an Individual Employment Plan (IEP) and then support him or her to move successfully through that IEP. There are many different types of jobs in agriculture or related industries that are a natural fit for farmworkers who really understand the fields and know what it takes for a successful harvest. From light construction to machine repair and operation, NFJP grantees can give farmworkers the skills and training necessary to become valued year-round employees on farms across the country. Many farmworkers already possess the leadership skills and community network to become a field manager, or Farm Labor Contractor, and NFJP grantees can help fill education and language gaps, or guide individuals through the certification process to open the door to higher achievement and more opportunity.
Giving farmworkers entrepreneurial training and helping them navigate their state licensing rules and regulations is another way that NFJP grantees have helped farmworkers continue in agriculture—On their own farms! That’s exactly how Telamon-Virginia helped Sergio Izaguirre Jr. who now owns his own business as a produce farmer who sells his wares at farmers markets across the state!

In honor of Farmworker Awareness Week, I recognize the passion and dedication of the NFJP grantees who are intensely committed to helping farmworkers. I also honor the value of farmworkers who daily toil to bring food to our tables, and who also take the life-altering risk of improving their futures by actively participating with the National Farmworker Jobs Program.

Kathleen Nelson, Director of NFJP

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The American Dream-“I am the hope of my parents’ harvest, I am the fruit of their efforts”

croppedTo honor Farmworker Awareness Week I invited a young farmworker woman to share her story. Eva and I first met in 2012 when she won a seven week, paid internship/fellowship in Washington D.C. Her story begins much the same as many migrant or seasonal farmworkers; nevertheless, Eva’s story is anything but typical. As I know her experiences and thoughts would provide a more powerful testament than anything I could write, providing Eva the opportunity to share her story seemed the right thing to do. Robert Crumley, Director of Communications.

eva2The American Dream – “I am the hope of my parents harvest, I am the fruit of their efforts.”

Rogelio, my father and hardworking farmworker made a decision that impacted my life forever. Following the American dream, he immigrated to the United States. My father and mothers purpose for immigrating was to raise their children in a safe community and provide a better future-one that allowed us to thrive in a nation of opportunities. Their dream of opportunities became a reality for me, now I have dreams of my own.

Growing up a farmworker child, I never imagined that I was capable of doing work that would impact the lives of thousands of other farm working children. With the help of my parents I learned the value of education and opportunities. Today, I strive to help others who lack the confidence and opportunity to do great things in life.

One of the greatest opportunities in my life was being an intern with the National Migrant Seasonal Head Start Association. This steppingstone allowed me to have a well-grounded understanding of the legislative process in our government. I learned about the work achieved by Congressional members and Senators from my first-hand experience in Capitol Hill meetings. I took the opportunity to bring issues to our legislative leaders that I am passionate about such as safety for migrant or seasonal farmworkers and their fair representation in our nation.

One of the most unforgettable events during the internship was a trip sponsored by the Association of Farm Workers Opportunities-Children in the Fields Campaign (AFOP).

During our visit with farm working communities in Greensville, North Carolina I witnessed the living conditions in which farm workers live. I saw the fear in their eyes of be being deported, being abused, and working in harsh conditions with no one to turn to for help because of their immigration status. This helped me realize that I was very fortunate to be working on my college degree. I don’t have to live in fear of being deported, being abused, living or working in harsh conditions with no one to turn to. I grew up working potatoes in a seasonal farmworker family and community in Central Washington. I am grateful for my background and am looking forward to using those experiences as I move forward with the opportunities I have been given.

Working conditions are of concern both to farm workers and their advocates. Adequate wages, housing, food, working conditions, access to health care, and the quality of life for their families are just a few. Many farmworkers have no options or hope when it comes to their livelihood. AFOP not only gives hope, but actually provides options. They provide the opportunity and support for farmworkers to learn new job skills and increase their incomes. I chose the college path to reach the American Dream, AFOP provides a different path for migrant and seasonal farmworkers to attain the Dream.

Two years after the internship in Washington D.C. I take what I learned and am helping people on the state level. This year I worked for the Washington State House of Representatives helping my representative conduct legislative research, write legislation, attend committee hearings and legislative meetings, and correspond with constituents. We worked hard to meet with constituents and listen to undocumented students and understand the needed investment in education for undocumented students. It is both rewarding and humbling to serve my community, and witness history being made when the governor signed the Washington Hope Act/Dream Act. It is with great pride that I was part of the bill signing. Between the opportunities these two internships afforded me, I have decided to pursue a political career.

I take great pride in my background and where I come from. Being a farmworker helped me appreciate and be thankful for the opportunities that have come my way. It doesn’t matter where you come from, but rather where you finish.

Evangelina Alvarez, student

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Protecting the Hard Working Hands

Melanie

Farmworkers  are some of the most forgotten and unacknowledged workers in the United States. The general public has little knowledge of the many challenges agriculture workers face on a daily basis: extremely limited access to health care; poverty incomes; exposure to unhealthy levels of pesticides; vagabond lifestyle; heat related illnesses; lack of representation in society due to language and cultural differences; and for many, the fear of interacting with law enforcers and government officials due to immigration status. Yet we forget that they are the ones responsible for planting and harvesting most of the food eaten both nationally and overseas.

Farmworkers are the backbone of the agricultural sector in the US economy by generating billions of dollars in revenue; but at what cost? In exchange for a well-fed nation, farmworkers offer their life, health, food, dignity, housing, children, clothing, fair pay, and much more. Cesar Chavez said: “It is ironic that those who till the soil, cultivate and harvest the fruits, vegetables, and other foods that fill your tables with abundance have nothing left for themselves.”

Due to vigorous physical labor, pesticide exposure, and dangerous equipment, agriculture is consistently ranked among the top three most hazardous jobs in the United States. Farmworkers are at great risk of respiratory and dermatological illnesses; dehydration; heat stroke and heat illness; accidents with dire physical impact; as well as chronic muscular/skeletal pain.

Many assume farm work is a low-skill occupation, it is not. Farmworkers perform a variety of tasks with speed and precision including working industrial machinery to the detail work of picking raspberries while trying not to be scratched by thorns. They often work up to 12 hours a day, six days a week, most receiving payment based upon a per piece rate that relies on speed and precision. Having programs that offer them tools to better protect themselves while helping them work at a maximum rate is vital.

AFOP’s Health & Safety Programs strive to empower farmworkers to protect themselves against pesticides and heat stress through health and safety education. We provide farmworkerswith relevant, interactive, low literacy and multi-language trainings that are put into practice in their daily routines.

As we continue celebrating the National Farmworker Awareness Week, AFOP’s Health & Safety Programs team has joined the national effort by having a long sleeve shirt drive in over 65 locations in 12 states including Puerto Rico. Our goal is to collect at least 1,000 long sleeve shirts by the end of the week. To find where the drop-off locations are, please click here.

Once this week is over, we shouldn’t forget the hard working hands that put food on our tables. To learn more about farmworker health & safety issues click here.

By Melanie Forti

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Farmworker Awareness Week, March 24-28, 2014

Daniel SheehanJoin AFOP in Recognizing Farmworker Awareness Week, March 24-28, 2014

As we begin the 2014 Farmworker Awareness Week, the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs encourages you to take time this week, and hopefully every day hereafter, to recognize the two to three million men, women and children who perform often dangerous and backbreaking work to ensure our nation’s abundant, low-cost food supply: our nation’s farmworkers.  While we consumers enjoy the literal fruits of their labor, farmworkers, sadly, often cannot afford to purchase the very produce they help bring to market.

According to a March 2011 study by United Farm Workers of America and others, the lack of accessible data and documentation about farmworkers’ employment — and their ultimate role in the food system — has in effect kept farmworkers hidden from public attention.  Few people, for example, are aware that farmworkers are excluded from the basic labor and safety standards firmly established in other employment sectors.  Likewise, many people would be shocked to learn that farm work has little or no overtime limits, child labor restrictions, collective bargaining rights, or workers’ compensation insurance, although agriculture is considered to be one of the most hazardous industries in the U.S.  Most Americans would also be surprised to find that even the few rules that do exist for farmworkers are rarely enforced.  The absence of regulatory oversight, enforcement, and data about this sector leaves employers unaccountable to basic health and safety standards, while leaving farmworkers vulnerable to abuse.

AFOP is doing its part to help farmworkers out of this trap.  By providing often life-changing job training, its members help give farmworkers a chance at a better life through gainful, self- and family-sustaining employment.  These organizations perform this critical work at a very high level, continually exceeding federal performance standards, year in and year out, making a real difference in workers’ lives.  AFOP and its member agencies also strive very hard to educate our nation’s decision-makers in Washington, D.C. so they know of the good work being done for farmworkers, and, just as importantly, the continuing need to help provide others laboring in agriculture a shot at securing stable, fulfilling employment.

Won’t you join in that effort?  Please visit Congress.Gov today, find your elected members of Congress, and write to tell them farmworkers deserve fair treatment, fair pay, and access to the essentials other workers take for granted every day.

Daniel Sheehan, Executive Director

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2015 Budget Proposal

Daniel SheehanGood news out of Washington.  The president released his fiscal year 2015 federal budget proposal.  Obama recommends that NFJP be flat-funded next fiscal year.  That’s welcome news because the budget agreement Congress reached late last year provides far less sequestration relief in fiscal year 2015 as it did in the current fiscal year 2014.  The NFJP funding request, as well as many others, are helped by the fact that the president’s budget assumes Congress will adopt his proposal of an additional $56 billion in discretionary spending that would be split between defense and non-defense programs.  It’s unclear what mechanism the budget would employ to add spending while adhering to the budget agreement’s spending caps.  The White House said the spending would be offset with revenue generated by closing tax breaks, which is outside the sphere of discretionary spending, as well as alternative spending cuts.  The House Budget Committee is expected to reject much of what the president has proposed, while the Senate Budget Committee, arguing that last year’s budget agreement set in place a budget framework for fiscal year 2015, may not write a budget resolution this year.

Here are the NFJP specifics.  They are identical to those included in the fiscal year 2014 omnibus appropriations bill.

* $81,896,000 for migrant and seasonal farmworker programs under WIA section 167

That amount includes:

  • $75,885,000 for formula grants (of which not less than 70 percent shall be for employment and training services)
  • $5,517,000 for migrant and seasonal housing (of which not 10 less than 70 percent shall be for permanent 11 housing)
  • $494,000 for other discretionary purposes

* Funds will be available July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016

* The language also includes this proviso:

“Provided, That notwithstanding any other provision of law or related regulation, the Department of Labor shall take no action limiting the number or proportion of eligible participants receiving related assistance services or discouraging grantees from providing such services.”

Daniel Sheehan,

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Public comment open for propsed changes to Worker Protection Standards for agriculture workers

Daniel SheehanSome good news out of EPA.  The agency has released for public comment its longtime-in-coming revisions to the Worker Protection Standard for Agriculture Pesticides.  AFOP was invited to participate in a stakeholders’ conference call this week with EPA officials who described the revisions in some detail.  We also received a personal call from EPA Assistant Administrator Jim Jones to thank AFOP for its support during the development of the revisions.  Administrator Jones also addressed the AFOP national conference in September on this important topic.

In light of the revisions document length and density, we will work with EPA to develop a webinar to help AFOP member organizations better understand the material.  In addition, we will provide talking points for member agencies to consider using to write EPA in support of the proposed changes.  Strong positive public comment will be critically important to seeing these changes through to implementation.

To learn more about the proposed changes or feedback period, please visit http://www.epa.gov/oppfead1/safety/workers/proposed/index.html

As always, please let us know if you have any questions.  Would be glad to answer them for you.

Daniel

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