Monterey County Farm Bureau


Reflections: How Far We Have Come

Written by: Norm Groot, Executive Director, Monterey County Farm Bureau


Getting in the Way of Recovery

As we begin to turn the corner on economic recovery from the pandemic, we are facing new challenges from regulatory and statutory requirements that hinder the ability of private enterprise to make quick and responsive decisions affecting their individual operations.

With the rollout of vaccines and wider vaccination rates amongst the agricultural community, there is improved confidence that our economic recovery will start in earnest.  To date, we estimate that 45% or more of farmworkers have received at least one shot in the arm, a pretty good acceptance rate so far.

Yet we see nearly every week that State and local government working in the exact opposite of accomplishing that economic opportunity for recovery.  Recent examples…

Cal/OSHA continues with their emergency regulations related for farmworker housing, including the ban on bunk beds.  This effectively creates a housing crisis of displacing half of the farmworkers out of beds in housing that has proven safe and healthy this past year.  With little to no serious infection rates in local farmworker housing facilities, eliminating the bed count just doesn’t make sense.  The adjustments were already made by housing operations and forcing farmworker beds into other facilities, such as local motels, isn’t a better choice or safer.  And it costs more to do this, money the farm operations just don’t have right now.

Then there is our Board of Supervisors who just approved a new ordinance related to Right to Recall of laid-off workers in the hospitality sector.  While the intent is to first offer those laid off a job back with the same employer, the true intent of this ordinance is to mandate a rigid process of hiring by employers and limiting their choices of who can and should work in their hotels and restaurants.  This will cause more in administrative costs and unnecessary legal challenges by former employees who perceive a hiring violation, without any actual proof.  This is bad public policy that will be precedent that could spread to other economic sectors, including agriculture.

And note that the state did the same action, with Governor Newsom signing off on SB 93 recently.  California employers are being loaded up with so many additional requirements, all in the guise of COVID relief, that it will be difficult to manage, stay in compliance with, and remain financially viable.

COVID notifications have become confusing and quite burdensome, especially for small farm operations.  There should be more emphasis on providing opportunities for vaccinations than the current measure of reporting requirements; the pandemic situation continues to evolve weekly yet the same “temporary” requirements remain in place for agricultural employers.

If we truly want economic recovery, for both Monterey County agriculture and hospitality sectors, then we must move forward with public policy that supports the family businesses and resources that drive this economy.  We stand in close support with our hospitality sector for getting tourists back here (safely) to spend their dollars in our hotels, restaurants, and attractions, helping to pump needed dollars into that beleaguered sector.

As the rate of vaccination continues to increase, and we add more freedoms to our daily lives, we must also be mindful that our businesses create the jobs for local residents, and in turn, for their employee family’s economic prosperity.  Without either the employers or the employees, neither can prosper.

So, let’s all work towards public policy that supports getting our economy back on the pathway to recovery and that “new normal” we are all longing for.  After all, we are and remain a capitalist society built on the principles that those who prosper do so because of enterprise and the ability to provide jobs.

We seem to be forgetting that there are two sides to each equation and public policy must seek to balance both sides.


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