On September 12, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released a barrage of proposed rules changes aimed at “increasing worker protections” under the H-2A worker program.
The rules call for: • Expanding workers’ rights to “organize,” which employers would be responsible for providing a list of their workers to labor organizations; • Allow their workers to designate a representative to attend ANY meeting between a worker and employer where discipline may be an outcome; • Employers will have to certify with the DOL that they will bargain in good faith with labor organization or explain why they will not; • Require that an employer may only terminate a workers “for cause”; • Employers will be required to identify and disclose contact information for anyone soliciting H-2A workers on tier behalf and supply the DOL with any agreements/contracts; • Wage rate increases would be immediate; • Require employers to communicate overtime opportunities and any postponed start dates for workers and if not provided an adequate notice of a delayed start date, pay wages for each day of work that is delayed; and • Public disclosure of personal information about farmers and managers.
The timing of further regulation and requirements for employers could not have come at a worse time. Domestic worker shortages in the agricultural industry, costs of transportation, energy and H-2A workers continue to rise at unprecedented rates. The Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council will be issuing comments on the DOL proposal.
The Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council (MGGC) invites you to attend an informational session on the Controlled Environment Insurance Program.
Date: October 12, 2023 Time: 9:00 – 10:30a Location: DGI Propagators– 7073 40th Ave., Hudsonville, MI 49426
PLEASE RSVP to MGGC by October 9th! email: email@example.com text or call: 517-367-2033
The USDA is in the process of implementing a new Federal Crop Insurance program designed to provide greenhouse growers an opportunity to insure against losses to destruction orders based on detention of actionable plant disease vectors. The informational session is open to Michigan Greenhouse Growers, Insurance Agents, Extension and Industry Specialists, and the general public.
MGGC has been advocating for crop insurance provisions within the U.S. Farm Bill for years. We continue to press the issue nationally with Senator Stabenow and our federal industry allies. The greenhouse industry has historically remained underinsured compared to other commodities, thus elevating the need for enhancing options, flexibility and affordability in the current offerings of crop insurance.
Please join this informational opportunity hosted by MGGC and DGI Propagators. There will be a presentation outlining the program followed by a Q&A session.
Throughout our 2022 Mini-Forum Meeting Series, the Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council alerted and updated members on the impending U.S. Supreme Court (USSC) decision in the Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) case which would have jump started a slippery slope for increased water use regulation throughout the United States. We are pleased to report that on May 25, 2023 the USSC unanimously ruled in favor of the Ag industry and private property owners to limit the EPA’s regulation over certain wetlands.
The Sackett v. EPA case stemmed from the EPA’s position that an Idaho couple’s (Michael and Chantell Sackett) newly purchased ¾ acre lot for their future home contained “navigable waters” subject to federal oversight. The USSC’s ruling snapped back at the agency agreeing that the EPA overreached when they attempted to regulate the Sackett’s lot.
The majority opinion, penned by Justice Samuel Alito, highlighted that the Clean Water Act should only apply to wetlands that are directly next to waters connected to navigable waters. Tractor ruts in fields, puddles or ponds will not fall under “Waters of the United States (WOTUS)” rule.
While the ruling is good news for members of the Ag industry, it will force the Biden administration to rewrite of the WOTUS rule, which removed long standing exclusions for small and isolated water features on farms. The WOTUS rule regulates lakes, rivers, streams, and tributaries.
Michigan is one of a few states that have the authority to manage some areas of the Clean Water Act. The Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council will monitor the state of Michigan’s response to the ruling and continue to fight for reasonable water use rights, less Federal overreach, and further clarity from the EPA.
We hope you all are doing well and preparing for the quickly approaching holidays. We have one urgent end of year request for your action. As you may be aware, the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (“AEWR”) will increase 12.8% from the current $15.37 hourly figure to $17.34 in 2023. This will have a severe negative effect on many Michigan growers!
We ask that you to contact your member of congress via letter and by phone to urge them to freeze the AEWR at 2022 levels. The information below contains a simple link to send an email message to President Biden and Labor Secretary Walsh voicing your concerns about the AEWR increase. A separate message will go to Congress urging action on an AEWR freeze at 2022 levels. We strongly encourage you to personalize the pre-populated letters with a story of your own.
In addition to the letters, we have attached a list of phone numbers to Congressional offices and ask that you CALL your member of Congress today and explain how this new AEWR is going to impact your greenhouse/operation. It’s very important that Representatives and Senators hear directly from you.
Please feel free to share this with your peers and urge them to take action as well.
Click https://bit.ly/MIAEWR to access the pre-populated letters. You’ll have to begin by entering your contact information and click next to take you to the letter screen. See the phone numbers for the Senators and the Representatives currently in Congress. If you aren’t sure who currently represents you, click here and enter your zip code and address:
In December of 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) announced that they would postpone the Produce Safety rule water compliance requirements, subpart E, while seeking agriculture industry feedback. The comment period on the proposed rule change ends on April 5, 2022.
The Michigan Greenhouse Growers Council is seeking grower members’ thoughts, feedback and rule impacts.
Specifically, the proposed rule would amend the subpart E of the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act’s Produce Safety Rule. The change would implement pre-harvest agricultural water “assessments” versus the pre-harvest microbial quality criteria and testing requirements for “covered produce” other than sprouts. The assessments are being looked at as a way to identify conditions that are likely to introduce hazards into or onto produce/food contact surfaces and to determine if corrective actions are needed to minimize risks.
Under the rule, “covered farms” would be required to do pre-harvest agricultural water assessments once annually. As part of the pre-harvest assessments, there will be a requirement to evaluate the following factors:
Agricultural Water System(s) – Location and water source
Agricultural Water Practices – Application method
Environmental Condition – Frequency of rain, air temperatures, and sun exposure
Today, by a 6-3 opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked President Biden’s and OSHA’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate, which would require businesses with 100 or more employees to have employees vaccinated or undergo weekly testing. However, the Court did allow a vaccine mandate for health care workers in nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments from the federal government.
“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly. Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category,” the court said in an unsigned opinion.
Dissenting Justices were Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.
At this time we do not believe that MIOSHA will proceed with issuing their own rule. As a safeguard, today’s Supreme Court decision will inform any attempts by OSHA to move forward with a permanent rule.