On the need for farm safety…

“Accidents and injuries usually result from poor training or preparation, inexperience, haste or fatigue.

“Well, on a farm, you have to do everything. Often, you must be in a hurry because things are seasonal. It’s routine to push yourself beyond what a paid employee in a factory would. That’s because it’s your operation – if you don’t do it, it won’t get done.

“Everyone in agriculture should keep at the front of their minds to do everything possible to create a culture of safety around farms. We could make a lot of progress on that and do much better than we have.”

On the DOL’s plan to work on farm safety through agriculture groups in lieu of the proposed rules…

“The DOL says it will now engage in a stakeholder outreach (on safety).

“It might have taken some time, but if DOL’s goal was results (in safety), the best way to do that was a stakeholder outreach begun a decade ago. You know, pull in growers, leading grower groups and maybe some equipment companies. If the people who are actually doing the work – and whose kids are doing the work – had been involved, I think we’d be in a much better place (already).”

Details on the outreach are yet to be released. Gasparini, who has been involved with such things in the past, “hopes the outreach is very broad. … They aren’t always easy and can be a lot of work. There has to be give-and-take and egos must be checked. In the end, though, some really good guidelines or rules are produced.”

On the latest regarding H-2A/H-2B farm labor programs and E-Verify…

Some in Congress “would still love to pass mandatory E-Verify. It’s still the law in several states and South Carolina will join them very soon.

“The U.S. Supreme Court is still discussing the constitutionality of certain pieces of the Arizona law. If it upholds that later this summer, we expect more states to move very quickly.

“At the federal level, E-Verify is stalled with leadership. Agriculture is telling them ‘we can’t support this unless we have a workable program to both make our current workforce legal, somehow, and have a future flow of non-immigrant workers.

“H-2A remains very difficult with a lot of delays. Nearly everyone who uses H-2A employees is audited. But that program still provides less than 5 percent of the workers.

“Even a better H-2A program is not a solution for mandatory E-Verify. We need more than that. We need a way to keep our existing workers.

“As for H-2B, a judge in Florida issued a temporary injunction (the last week of April) against implementation of the H-2B rule. She will likely rule sometime over the summer on whether that injunction will become permanent. H-2B users will operate under the old law at least through the rest of this season and into 2013.”

dbennett@farmpress.com