berry farmers

FY 2019 H-2B Cap Relief Update

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The Federation of Employers and Workers of America (FEWA) has shared this important update.

 

Last month, the Appropriations Committees filed the conference agreement on the FY 19 Labor-HHS and Department of Defense “minibus” appropriations bill, which includes a continuing resolution (CR) to maintain funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and other federal Departments through December 7, 2018.  

 

What does this mean for H-2B?

The conference report that was filed would continue the Department of Labor (DOL) H-2B provisions that have been included in past funding bills.  No immediate changes to the program.

Cap relief is not included in this “minibus” bill that is expected to be signed into law.

 

What does this mean for H-2B Cap Relief?

The CR for the DHS though December 7 is important, as it relieves the pressure of a governmental shutdown.

The DHS funding bill passed by the House Appropriations Committee in July would exempt returning workers from the annual H-2B visa cap, along with other adjustments. The Senate Appropriations Committee–passed version of FY 2019 DHS funding bill asks DHS to consider a more equitable annual allocation of the 66,000 visas. 

Congress will not take up an FY 2019 funding bill for DHS after the November 7 elections. THIS WILL BE OUR OPPORTUNITY FOR H-2B CAP RELIEF. 

 

What can you do?

After this bill is signed into law, House members will be returning to their home districts to begin campaigning for election day. Meet with your representative at home and stress the importance the H-2B program has on your business and the need for immediate cap relief. View H-2B Cap Relief Talking Points.  

After November 7 elections, Congress will return to DC, and within the first week concentrate on electing leadership roles. Once that is complete they will have until December 7 to negotiate the remaining bills to fund the government. THIS WILL BE OUR OPPORTUNITY FOR THE H-2B RETURNING WORKER EXEMPTION. 

 

FEWA and the H-2B Workforce Coalition continue to urge Congress to include the House cap relief language in a final appropriations bill. FEWA’s Jarrod Sharp and Robin Svec will be in Washington, DC, later this month to further advocate for this language.

 

In addition to continuing to push for Congress to pass H-2B cap relief we will let you know when Congress votes on this legislation.

A Look at Our 2017 Berry Production Workshop

We're sharing our favorite moments from our late-August Berry Production Workshop, sponsored by Cornell University and Cornell CCE. Check out our October newsletter for the full summary of the event, which brought together scientists, growers, and ag professionals from across New York State.

Member Spotlight: Abbott Farms

New York State Berry Growers Association Abbott Farms 1

Member Spotlight: Abbott Farms

Ask most farmers what they grow and sell, and they’ll enumerate a list of fruits and vegetables. Ask Warren Abbott of Abbott Farms, and the answer is “Fun.”

Of course, the farm also sells other products, and lots of them—including strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, sweet cherries, rhubarb, asparagus, sweet corn, pumpkins, Italian prunes, and apples, as well as beef, hard cider, and wine. But what Abbott Farms—located in Baldwinsville and in operation, in the same family, since 1866—focuses on most of all is the customer. “We really sell an experience,” Warren explains, noting that the farm has up to 85 employees seasonally each year, most of them in customer service–related roles. 

New York State Berry Growers Association Abbott Farms 2

 

Prior to 1964, Abbott Farms was a small subsistence dairy. They added grain and potatoes at that time, and a small store for some retail sales by the early ’70s. In 1993, with the addition of a new store, they shifted their focus toward retail, and by 2007 had left the grain market entirely. These days, under the management of their fifth generation of farmers, they sell wholesale only if there’s extra supply. Recently, they added hard cider and wine, to satisfy the customer demand for quality local products and the in-person touch.

Over the years, the Abbotts have found that in order to sell in volume, customers require that the products be grown right on the farm. “Every time we decide to grow an item we sell, we triple sales of that item instantly,” Warren says. “I would have never guessed it would be so dramatic. We would have made that change sooner [if we had known].”

New York State Berry Growers Association Abbott Farms Baldwinsville NY

 

Crop losses from SWD encouraged the Abbotts to walk away from growing fall raspberries and day-neutral strawberries, though Warren says they may restart those crops “if control methods are available and economical.” As a business, Abbott Farms’ bigger challenges have been expanding frequently to maintain income; labor rates and regulation; and finding, training, and keeping good employees in seasonal positions.

For now, they’re focusing on frequent shake-ups to their strategy to maintain consumer interest. “The cidery will take some time to dial in, but it’s the most exciting and promising change since 2007,” Warren says, adding that they’ll be introducing a hard-cider tasting room soon. Besides the many varieties of fruit and sweet ciders available for tasting, they also offer happy-making products like 10 flavors of fudge and more than 20 flavors of ice cream. And they try to emphasize to customers that they select berry varieties for flavor, and pick for flavor and sugar content—not shipping and storage hardiness—to bring audience back week after week.

On-farm events—such as foot races, berry festivals, pancake breakfasts, a weekly festival in the fall, weekly farmers’ markets, and birthday parties—have been a big success. These events keep Abbott Farms top of mind—and tops in word-of-mouth referrals—for customers, as does maintaining a regular e-mail and Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter presence. They also advertise on billboards and in family and leisure guides in season.

New York State Berry Growers Association Abbott Farms Baldwinsville NY berries

 

Even though Abbott Farms is tech- and marketing-savvy, they still make sure the personal touch comes across in everything they do. Warren says, “We will continue to offer educational, family fun, while picking fruit and relaxing around the farm.” Maybe even for another 150 years.