A focus on the farm workforce

While much of the ag industry has struggled with labor shortages, the CEO of Sunripe Certified Brands says his organization has had the opposite problem.

Jon Esformes told attendees of the recent Ag Outlook Forum, hosted by the USDA, that his company has more workers inquiring about jobs than positions available.  “The word went out, after our first season, to workers in Mexico that we were a Fair Food Program farm and the experience there was different than in other agricultural cultures,” he says.  In the Fair Food Program, buyers and growers implement a Code of Conduct that outlines protections for farmworkers. The program was launched in 2011 with an expansion in 2015. 

Speaking through an interpreter, Lupe Gonzalo who is part of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, says the program has provided significant improvements for farm workers. “We can make sure that we’re the monitors of that,” she says.  “To make sure that that food wasn’t produced by workers who were being harassed or threatened with violence.  Or that were facing any of the abuses that for so long we had.”

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) is a worker-based human rights organization internationally recognized for its achievements in fighting human trafficking and gender-based violence at work.  The CIW has also developed a worker-led, market-enforce approach to the protection of human rights in corporate supply chains.

Nearly 20 growers across the US currently participate in the Fair Food Program.

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