By Clint Thompson
Georgia agriculture (Ag) employers should mark their calendars for the upcoming Georgia Ag Labor Relations Forum, scheduled for Nov. 14-15, at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus Conference Center.
The two-day event attracts regulators and experts affiliated with the labor industry. The forum’s format enables employers, human resource managers and administrators to collaborate in securing a sustainable workforce while remaining compliant. It is tailored for all owners, operators, office managers, personnel managers and service providers for various sectors of the agricultural industry, including specialty crops.
Chris Butts, executive vice president of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, highlighted what those growers and industry leaders can expect when attending this year’s event with a focus on the H-2A process.
“What I’d really like to stress, as we see H-2A continue to grow, five states use over 50% of the H-2A visas, and three of those are in the Southeast with Georgia topping out over 25,000 workers this year. This is really an industry-wide effort. We enjoy tremendous support from other Ag organizations and commodities to put this on,” Butts said. “I think last year when we had the $120 million increase in wages due to the AEWR (Adverse Effect Wage Rate) changes, we’ve got more and more farm member contracts coming into the market.
“More and more of our growers are using this program. There are more of these workers coming into the Southeast every year. It’s more important than ever to stay compliant and be able to provide a healthy and safe working environment for your employees. That’s what Ag labor is here for, to provide that information and keep everybody in the industry on the right side of compliance.”
The H-2A program allows U.S. employers or U.S. agents who meet specific regulatory requirements to bring foreign nationals to the United States to fill temporary agricultural jobs.