Karst chat with Barry Bedwell: On the next step for the California tree fruit industry

03/31/2011 12:17:02 PM
Tom Karst

3:07 p.m. Karst: Are you involved with administration of the Market Access Program export promotion funds now?

3:07 p.m. Bedwell: Only from a supportive role. We understand in terms of both fresh table grapes and tree fruit, the Market Access Program has been very important to expanding those markets, and this is something we have to take a look at and what is the best way to utilize resources to assist these growers. That’s really what it comes down to; how we best assist these growers.

3:08 p.m. Karst: This is just one added dimension for your organization right now; what else are you working on right now?

3:08 p.m. Bedwell: We always go back to list of priorities, our top ten list. It has been relatively consistent over the past few year. Certainly labor issues are the top priority. A major concern for our membership is legislation seemingly introduced every year in California having to do with card check. Card check was again introduced by the president pro tempore in the Senate Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and this version seems to go out of its way, quite frankly, I think in taking away the rights of the farm employees to a secret ballot. It is amazingly intrusive in our view. One of the things were are facing in California is that the governor has been very clear and very much focused on the budget issue and said he would not address these other public policy issues until afterwards.
The other thing at the federal level that is very concerning to our members is that their seems to be this attention on E-verify and employer enforcement sanctions. We have made it very clear while we support border security and making sure that we have the right documentation, to do so before there is some type of way to make sure our workforce is legal, is simply not going to work. In a state like California, given our labor needs, H-2A under its current form is simply not an alternative.

The other things we are very concerned with that during a time of reduced resources at the state and federal level, we seem to be dealing with more and more invasive species. More of the treatment protocol is falling on the growers themselves. Just last year, we had European grape vine moth, light brown apple moth, melon fruit fly, all of these things came about at a time when markets were challenging enough but when you become potentially restricted by quarantines it becomes very very concerning. In California, the whole invasive species goes hand in hand with a growing public reluctance to treat in any large scale fashion some of these pests. Our ability to treat as we have done in the past has been restricted, although we have a governor who lived through the days of the Mediterranean fruit fly in the 1980s and understands the potential damage. It is going to be more of a resource issue now, so we try to prevent the introduction of these pests in our ports of entry. These are always, always big concerns for us.



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