Author: John Torres

Prevailing Wage and Practices – Agricultural Employment Surveys

Prevailing Wage and Practices – Agricultural Employment Surveys

Sarah Everhart and Margaret Todd

Sarah Everhart and Margaret Todd

University of Maryland, Agriculture Law Education Initiative (ALEI)

The Maryland Department of Labor (MDOL) has started conducting the 2021 Agricultural Employment Surveys (AES), beginning May 17th and continuing until early October. The results will provide an inside look at Maryland’s prevailing wages and employment practices for agricultural jobs within the state by sector – useful information for those employers preparing agricultural job offers.

Agricultural employment is a complex undertaking that requires employers to consider not only which wage to offer, but also to factor in other services, such as providing transportation and housing, using farm labor contractors, etc. Access to prevailing wage and practice data can help farm employers competitively recruit and retain the best workers.  Likewise, producers who are looking to expand their operation or diversify can benefit from reviewing survey reports to understand the regional employment trends they will need to conform with to provide attractive employment opportunities.

The AES are normally done in-person through farm visits by Maryland Department of Labor (MDOL) representatives, however, social distancing measures over the last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to changes in survey administration. MDOL has switched to a phone and mailing campaign. The surveys for wage and practices are two separate forms that ask for information by sector (crop) and state region. Maryland is divided into three regions: Central, Eastern Shore, and Western. Farmers will receive copies of the survey via mail that can be filled out and mailed back to the MDOL. Options to send responses back via e-mail, fax and telephone are also available this year.

To date, MDOL plans to begin phone surveys for the following crops and regions during the dates in the table.

Agricultural Area Crop Activity Estimated Dates of Crop Activity Date of Survey Period
Central Nursery Mar 2 – Dec 15 May 17 – May 21
Eastern Shore Nursery Mar 2 – Dec 15 May 17 – May 21
Statewide Turf Mar 2 – Nov 15 June 7 – June 11
Statewide Christmas Tree Mar 16 – Dec 18 June 21 – July 2
Central Diversified Crops June 1 – Aug 31 Aug 2 – Aug 6
Eastern Shore Sweet Corn Harvest June 22 – July 31 July 12 – July 16
Eastern Shore Cantaloupe Harvest June 30 – July 31 July 12 – July 16
Eastern Shore Tomato Harvest July 27 – Aug 31 July 12 – July 16
Eastern Shore Watermelon July 1 – Aug 15 July 12 – July 16
Southern MD Vegetable Aug 1 – Sept 15 Aug 16 – Aug 20
Statewide Grape Aug 14 – Oct 1 Sept 6 – Sept 24
Statewide Horse Farm Mar 2 – Nov 16 Sept 13 – Sept 17
Western MD Fall Apple Harvest Aug 31 – Oct 30 Sept 27 – Oct 01


The state-run AES help establish prevailing wages and prevailing, or normal and common, practices in agriculture by asking for information about the number of U.S. and H-2A workers; average productivity and earnings of piece rate workers; variables affecting rates and hiring practices; experience standards, and more. Prevailing wages can be piece rates or hourly wages. Prevailing practices are those practices engaged in by employers, that fifty percent or more of employers in an area and for an occupation engage in the practice or offer the benefit, which can include the provision of family housing, frequency of wage payments, providing advance transportation, and the utilization of labor contractors.

Farm employers seeking certification to employ H-2A workers must offer and pay the higher of the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR), the prevailing wage in the area, or the federal or state minimum wage. The AEWR is usually the highest of these wages and covers a range of farm jobs in a state or multistate region, however, employers should still check the prevailing wage applicable to their particular operation and location.

State results are submitted and assessed by the Office of Foreign Labor Certification (OFLC) to decide whether they can make a prevailing wage determination. Anonymized reports with previous year data for wage can be found online in the Agricultural Online Wage Library (AWOL) (https://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/aowl.cfm) and for practices in the Agricultural Employment Practice Survey Library (https://www.foreignlaborcert.doleta.gov/aowl_survey_pdf.cfm).

States often struggle to get farmers to participate, and a decreasing number of states continue to conduct prevailing wage and practices surveys. For many commodities, there is “no finding” because the state workforce agency did not conduct surveys or did not obtain data from a sufficient number of employers and workers. However, when there is sufficient participation the results can offer producers meaningful insight into what their regional hiring trends are and help them know when a job order, wage, and position requirements will be acceptable under the Foreign Labor Certification program requirements.

Successful survey efforts depend on farmer participation; the greater the participation, the better the integrity of the results. According to Norton Pereira, the State Rural Services Coordinator at the MDOL, “Maryland has a solid reputation in not only doing them every year but also getting meaningful results.  We would like to continue that tradition with farmers’ help.”

For more information or to submit questions about the Maryland surveys, contact Norton Pereira at norton.pereira@maryland.gov or by phone at (301) 326-6006.

Cost-Share Funding Now Available to Assist Farmers with Poultry Manure Storage

Cost-Share Funding Now Available to Assist Farmers with Poultry Manure Storage

New Incentive to Help Farmers Boost Soil Health

ANNAPOLIS, MD (April 28, 2021) — The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has announced new cost-share assistance for the installation of satellite storage facilities on farms using poultry manure to improve soil health for crop production. Beginning May 1, 2021, Maryland farmers receiving manure from producers in qualifying areas can apply for grants to cover up to 87.5% of construction costs. 

“Covered storage structures preserve the nutrient content of poultry manure, which is shown to improve soil health when applied in accordance with a nutrient management plan,” said Secretary Joe Bartenfelder. “We are pleased to offer this important incentive to farmers as part of our ongoing commitment to promote sustainable, regenerative agriculture practices.”

In 2017, Governor Larry Hogan signed legislation establishing Maryland’s Healthy Soils Program. The program, administered by MDA’s Office of Resource Conservation, encourages farmers to adopt conservation practices that will improve soil productivity. Manure, when properly managed, supplies essential nutrients and micronutrients that plants need to grow and returns organic matter to the soil to feed microbes, build carbon, and increase water and nutrient retention. 

Cost-share funding is provided by the Maryland Agricultural Water Quality Cost-Share (MACS) Program. Farmers who can demonstrate their eligibility and capacity to receive manure should contact their local soil conservation district to apply. Additional financial assistance to transport manure is available through the department’s Manure Transport Program. Applicants must be in good standing with the MACS Program and in compliance with Maryland’s nutrient management regulations.  

For more information on Maryland’s Soil Health Program, please visit the website.

Prioritizing cybersecurity on farms

Prioritizing cybersecurity on farms

The following information is provided by Nationwide®, the #1 farm and ranch insurer in the U.S.*

There’s a proverbial snake in the grass when it comes to the security of high-value farm-level data generated by today’s precision agriculture technology. Prioritize cybersecurity to help secure your data from theft so it’s only used for intended purposes.

Recognize your data’s value

With the advancement of data-driven precision ag tools, vulnerability to cyberattacks is on the rise. The good news is cybersecurity capabilities also continue to advance. Protect your data by first recognizing its value, then work in secure hardware and systems.

There’s a value exchange in using any digital platform. Free services typically come with a caveat. Google is one example; when using its free services, users grant the company permission to use that data in different ways. That may mean your email data is used to enable partner companies to target ads based on interests expressed in your messages. The paid version of G Suite can cost as little as $5/month, but it includes stronger data protection.

Work with secure tech partners

Start securing your data with a look at your technology providers. Many companies are investing considerably in data security. Ask questions of your machinery and precision ag partners to confirm the security of your data on their platforms.

Steps you can take on your farm

According to a report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), these steps can help shore up potential vulnerabilities in your data security at the farm level:

  • Be proactive and actively manage data. Be proactive with and accountable for the steps you can take to keep your data secure. Perform recommended software updates, frequently change account passwords and regularly check application and platform security settings to help ensure you’re equipping yourself with the latest security tools.
  • Choose the right platforms. Research your options for managing your farm data. Consider paying even a small monthly fee for stronger security settings. The right decision is a balance between expense and your data security expectations.
  • Store your data right. Where and how you store your data is important to its security from potential cyberattacks. If stored in the cloud, make sure the platform has adequate security protocols. If doing so locally, use a storage device with firewalls in place that’s not connected to the internet.
  • Involve your whole team. Create processes to manage the increasing volume of data gleaned by today’s precision ag tools. Staying up-to-date with the latest and most effective data security tools and platforms is not easy for everyone. Meet with employees and other farm stakeholders regularly to ensure everyone is on the same page to keep your data secure.

 

Get the right cyber liability insurance

Consult with a trusted advisor to ensure you have the right cyber liability coverage for your farm should a cyber theft or data compromise occur. Cybercrime and identity theft can be complicated and costly. Cyber liability coverage from Nationwide can help offset the devastating effects hacking, data theft and identity fraud can have on your business from a financial and reputation standpoint.    

For more tips and information to help you maintain safety on your farm, visit https://www.nationwide.com/lc/resources/farm-and-agribusiness/.

 

*A.M. Best Market Share Report 2019. Nationwide, the Nationwide N and Eagle, and Nationwide is on your side are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. © 2021 Nationwide.

Maryland Moves to Appeal Court Decision on Air Emissions from Animal Feeding Operations

DAVIDSONVILLE, MD – On April 12, 2021, the Attorney General of Maryland formally filed an appeal to the March 11, 2021 Assateague Costal Trust v. The Maryland Department of the Environment ruling from the circuit court for Montgomery County. 

Maryland Farm Bureau, in cooperation with the Delmarva Chicken Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation, will be following the case carefully through the Court of Special Appeals. We will pursue all available options to present to the Court scientifically sound information related to how Maryland farmers have and continue to implement the best management practices that protect waters of the state and waters of the U.S. In addition, we look to inform the Court on a more clear understanding of the intent, scope, and application of the federal Clean Water Act. 

On behalf of the many Maryland farm families whose livelihood depends on raising livestock in a safe, sustainable, and responsible way—we thank the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Attorney General for filing the appeal.

Maryland Farm Bureau thanks Governor Hogan for 2021 Rural Broadband and Infrastructure Budget

Maryland Farm Bureau thanks Governor Hogan for 2021 Rural Broadband and Infrastructure Budget

On behalf of our more than 12,000 members, Maryland Farm Bureau thanks Governor Hogan and his administration—Speaker Adrienne Jones, Senate President Bill Ferguson and their leadership team—for prioritizing broadband infrastructure investment in this year’s budget agreement. In 2020, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have clearly shown that rural broadband access continues to be severely limited in our state. Nearly 25% of Maryland’s rural citizens have limited to no internet service. 

We encourage the Governor and the General Assembly to prioritize infrastructure in rural communities across Maryland. As precision agriculture expands in the farming landscape, the need for internet service is critical. Utilizing GPS technology, both on-board computer updates and green-seeker in-field crop analysis have become valuable tools that farmers use to control over-application of nutrients and crop protectants; this helps reduce runoff and improve water quality. In addition, access to telemedicine and telehealth services for rural residents is essential for those who do not live close to cities and towns where in-person medical services are easier to access than in rural parts of the state. Furthermore, the need to provide online education to children living in rural areas where broadband access is sparce continues to put our rural youth at a learning disadvantage.

Expanding the broadband infrastructure into our rural communities not only helps Maryland’s farm families but all rural citizens in our state. We look forward to working with state leaders to bring internet connectivity to every corner of Maryland. 

Second Cyberag Symposium Takes Deep Dive into Cybersecurity Issues Affecting Agriculture and Aquaculture

Second CyberAg Symposium Takes Deep Dive into Cybersecurity Issues Affecting Agriculture and Aquaculture

EASTON, MD (March 19, 2021) To help address the ever-increasing threat of cyberattacks against the U.S. food industry, the second CyberAg Symposium on April 14 will bring together experts from the agriculture and cybersecurity sectors to discuss and discover solutions to security problems. Registration is free and the symposium will be held virtually.

“Advancements in American agriculture technology have broad security implications for the country, making data security a top concern,” said Mike Thielke, executive director of the Eastern Shore Entrepreneur Center (ESEC), organizer of the symposium. “This second symposium will further build awareness about how data protection can be leveraged to protect the agriculture and aquaculture sectors.”

While the agricultural industry has historically had little demand for cybersecurity, new innovation and advancements have left the sector in dire need of safeguarding from exploitation and hacking from outside influences. According to a recent survey by Farm Journal Pulse, less than 20% of farmers feel confident in their data security.

The symposium also provides the opportunity for members of the cybersecurity community to become aware of the problems facing the agricultural community. This will provide access to new markets for cyber firms to offer their existing solutions as well as for developing novel solutions for ongoing and newly-developed problems in the agriculture-aquaculture world.

This second symposium will feature speakers from Skyward Apps (Columbia, Maryland), Rantizo (Iowa City, Iowa), AgLaunch (Memphis, Tennessee), Corteva’s Granular Division (San Francisco, California), and the FBI (Washington, DC). The symposium is sponsored by Rantizo; the Maryland Department of Commerce; MidAtlantic Farm Credit; the Maryland Farm Bureau; Cybersecurity Association of Maryland, Inc. (CAMI); and F3Tech, an ESEC initiative.

Registration is now open at cyberag.org.

REGISTRATION

A session from the first CyberAg Symposium – Data Security from an Agriculture Perspective, which was held last December – can be viewed at cyberag.org by clicking on the video on the right side of the page. The ongoing conversation can be joined through social media at #cyberag.

About ESEC: The Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center (ESEC) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, based in Easton on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, with a mission to educate and support entrepreneurs. Its initiatives include F3 Tech, a program that focuses bringing technology solutions to the Farm, Fish, and Food industries.

A Time for Policy Over Politics – No Need to Override Hogan’s Veto on SB300

A Time for Policy Over Politics – No Need to Override Hogan’s Veto on SB300

The Maryland State legislature convened in January for an unprecedented, largely virtual, legislative session. COVID-19 and other important issues from the trying year that was 2020 have given the legislature plenty of priorities to focus on and overcome during the 2021 session. Given the limited time for legislators on the floor and priority issues to advance during a global pandemic; one would assume the Senate would not spend precious legislative time overriding a Gubernatorial veto on a bill for which the provisions have already been enacted through regulation. That is why they should not seek to override the veto on Senate Bill 300 “Pesticides – Use of Chlorpyrifos – Prohibition” that passed in the waning hours of the truncated 2020 session.

Senate Bill 300 sought to set a precedent as the first legislative ban of an agricultural pesticide in Maryland history; a process historically done through regulation at the Federal and state levels. Senate Bill 300 sought to end the use of Chlorpyrifos by December 31, 2021 and regulations have already been enacted to do exactly that. Overriding the veto and expending limited floor time on this issue which has already been resolved instead of using that time to advance policies that could create real, positive change does not serve Maryland’s citizens.
During the 2020 legislative session, the agricultural community worked with bi-partisan members of the Senate and the Governor’s administration to craft a regulatory solution to meet the intent of Senate Bill 300. These regulations were drafted and submitted during the 2020 legislative session to phase Chlorpyrifos out of use in Maryland on the same timeline proposed in the bill and took effect in June 2020. Upon enactment of the regulations, aerial application of Chlorpyrifos was banned immediately. All other uses were banned as of December 30, 2020 with the exception of snap bean seed treatments and fruit trees in order to give those farmers time to seek out and transition to alternatives. Use of Chlorpyrifos in those instances be eliminated as of June 30, 2021 with a provision for emergency exemptions until December 31, 2021 after which time, Chlorpyrifos will no longer be registered for use in Maryland. Finally, the regulations set up an advisory committee to help farmers transition to alternative products.

There is nothing more to be achieved from a policy perspective by overriding the veto on Senate Bill 300. We believe proponents of the bill seek to override the veto to set a precedent of legislatively banning pesticides in Maryland and circumventing the robust, regulatory process in place governing pesticides. Pesticides are reviewed and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency through an extensive, scientific process. Authority for pesticide regulation at the state level in Maryland is delegated to the Maryland Department of Agriculture. This process often takes nearly a decade with review at least every fifteen years.

Governor Hogan was not alone in vetoing pesticide legislation in favor of regulation in 2020. Both Governor Jay Inslee (D-WA) and Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) of New York vetoed pesticide ban legislation in 2020 in favor of regulatory solutions. When Governor Cuomo vetoed Chlorpyrifos ban legislation in New York, he summed up the reasoning in his veto letter stating, “legislatively banning pesticides substitutes the legislature’s judgment for the expertise of chemists, health experts, and other subject matter experts in this field.”

Any change to the regulations banning Chlorpyrifos would be a public and open process requiring submission to the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee of the Maryland State Legislature, publication in the Maryland Register, and public comment to be considered before enactment. That being said, the agricultural community has no intentions of going back on our word to support the regulatory phase out of Chlorpyrifos in Maryland and seeking changes to the regulations. Banning Chlorpyrifos in Maryland is not without consequences. Many farmers are now faced with a daunting task of finding alternative products to protect their crops to continue growing safe, reliable and affordable food for Marylanders. We hope the Maryland legislature will spend their time improving the lives of their constituents through meaningful policy rather than overriding a veto on a bill that will achieve nothing beyond what has already been done through regulation.

Melvin Baile, President of Maryland Grain Producers Association & farmer in Carroll County
Wayne Stafford, President of Maryland Farm Bureau & farmer in Carroll County

Five Maryland Farm Bureau Scholarships Available for 2021

DAVIDSONVILLE, MD (December 17, 2020) – Maryland Farm Bureau (MDFB) is offering five $2,000 scholarships for the 2020-2021 academic year. Applicants must be high school seniors starting college in the fall of 2021 or full-time college students at any accredited community college or four-year institution. Applicants, or their parents/guardians, must be members of Maryland Farm Bureau. Three of the scholarships will be awarded to students pursuing academic disciplines in food, agriculture, and/or natural resources. The remaining two scholarships are open to students in any academic discipline.  

Scholarship recipients will be selected by a designated committee of the Maryland Farm Bureau. To apply, students must apply online via the official application website. The application includes the following essay question to be answered by each applicant: 

The increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters creates additional risk for farmers and ranchers. What tools and production practices can be engaged to reduce climate and weather risks? 

Applications must be received by March 15, 2021 at 5:00 PM. For more information or to apply, visit:

https://www.mdfarmbureau.com/scholarships/  

About Maryland Farm Bureau

Maryland Farm Bureau is a grassroots organization that serves as the united voice of Maryland farm families. Maryland Farm Bureau’s organizational strength comes from the active participation of over 12,000 individual and family members who belong to the state’s 23 county Farm Bureaus. Since 1915, Maryland Farm Bureau has been committed to promoting and protecting Maryland agriculture and rural life. Maryland Farm Bureau is a proud member of the American Farm Bureau Federation.7

Poll Shows Americans’ Unwavering Trust in Farmers and Approval of Sustainability Practices

WASHINGTON, November 12, 2020 – A majority of U.S. adults have a positive view of farmers’ sustainability practices, and an overwhelming majority trust farmers, according to a new national public opinion poll from the American Farm Bureau Federation.

The survey of 2,200 U.S. adults found that more than half (58%) rate the sustainability practices of U.S. farmers positively, with broad agreement from a majority of adults across demographic groups.  

Nearly nine in 10 adults (88%) trust farmers, a 4% increase from AFBF’s June 2020 polling, which is evidence the public recognized that food supply chain challenges brought on by the pandemic were not within the control of farmers and ranchers.

The survey also explored public attitudes about the environmental sustainability achievements of farmers and ranchers, as well as future direction to advance climate-smart farming. Overall, the public agrees farmers shouldn’t be expected to bear the financial burden alone. More than four in five adults (84%) say environmental sustainability and economic sustainability are both important for farmers, and most adults say both are very important. More than four in five adults also say feeding the world (84%) and farmers passing farms on to future generations (83%) are important.  

“Americans have a high level of trust in farmers, and they understand that we’re committed to protecting the soil, air and water,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “We want to leave the land better than we found it for our children and grandchildren, as well as our nation. Our survey demonstrates that Americans are impressed by advancements in climate-smart farming and we look forward to building on that success.”

Support for farmers’ sustainability efforts swelled when government data was shared about achievements. More than eight in 10 Americans (81%) were impressed when they learned that, according to the Environmental Protection Agency and Agriculture Department, farmers have put 140 million acres in conservation programs, more than doubled the amount of renewable energy sources they use, and nearly tripled the amount of food grown in the last 70 years with the same or fewer resources.

Looking to the future, the survey explores how Americans think sustainability efforts on farms and ranches should be funded. Seventy percent of adults say government incentives to encourage farmers to adopt additional sustainable agricultural practices would be effective. More than three-quarters of adults believe it is important for the government to fund science-based research (76%) and improve infrastructure (78%) to support agriculture.

At a time when some corporations are making sustainability commitments that include or impact agricultural production, a bipartisan majority of adults (62%) say corporations should compensate farmers for the additional cost of implementing environmental practices to help achieve sustainability goals.

The survey also revealed there is still work to be done to increase awareness of agriculture’s comparatively small contribution to greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. More than four in five adults (84%) were not able to correctly identify agriculture’s impact. On a brighter note, nearly half of adults (45%) correctly ranked agriculture as the smallest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector. According to the latest EPA data, agriculture accounts for 10% of total U.S. emissions, far less than the transportation, electricity production, commercial and residential, and industry sectors. 

View the full survey results here

Maryland Farm Bureau’s Winter Webinar series

Winter / SPring Webinar Series

Maryland Farm Bureau is proud to present our Winter / Spring Webinar series!

To adapt to the COVID-19 environment, Maryland Farm Bureau has put together the Winter / Spring Webinar series to address hot topics for Maryland farmers and provide more benefits for members.

All webinars are free for members!

(For non-members, all webinars are included for a one-time $70 fee. This registration fee will also include a one-year membership to your local county Farm Bureau.)

 

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