Temporary seasonal workers face language, legal issues

By JOSHUA BENDER
Capital News Service
LANSING — The number of foreign seasonal farm workers pouring into Michigan and the legal and economic challenges they face are rapidly growing, say some legal and agricultural experts. The increase is the result of contractors bringing workers into the country under temporary visas called H2A visas. They are often referred to euphemistically as guest workers, said Tom Thornburg, co-managing attorney at Farmworker Legal Services, a Kalamazoo-based legal advocacy group for  agricultural workers. The number of these guest workers from other countries has doubled every year since 2012, he said. In 2015 they numbered 928.

Analysis offers free export opportunities

By JASMINE WATTS
Capital News Service
LANSING — Michigan growers and processors can gain access to market research without paying thousands of dollars, thanks to a new, free export opportunity analysis. Euromonitor International and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s International Marketing Program developed the analysis. Euromonitor International provides strategic market research. “The analysis gives companies additional information of where new export opportunities are and the top export markets for their products,” said Jamie Zmitko-Somers, international marketing program manager for the department. The reports are designed to assist companies in mapping out an export strategy for 2016 and beyond by highlighting commodities, consumer trends, historic and forecasted consumption, Zmitko-Somers said.

Clinton County farms still vital to economy

By Rachel Bidock
Clinton County Staff Reporter

The relationship between farmers and non-farmers in Clinton County has changed, but the importance of farmers in the county has not. Farms are a vital source of income for towns in Michigan, said Paul Thompson the Kellogg Chair in agricultural, food and community ethics at Michigan State University. “Farming really is the single, economically most important industry in most of these rural communities, particularly here in the southern half of the state,” Thompson said. According to Scott Swinton, a professor at MSU’s Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, because farmers earn money for their crops and then spend that money, they help out the communities. “When one person in a region earns money, as farmers do from selling their crops and livestock, they spend that money other places in the community, it’s what economists call a multiplier effect,” Swinton said.

Fire destroys barn, no injuries reported

By Teresa Fata

The Williamston Post

A fire on Noble Road in Williamston in the early morning hours of March 31 left a local barn with nothing but a charred frame. The rest of the property is still intact. Williamston Fire Chief Bill Siegel said that the fire department received the call around 5:20 a.m. and was able to put the fire out shortly after. “We contained the fire to the building of origin… We contained it so it didn’t get up to the big barn by the road,” he explained. “We had assistance from the Dansville Fire Department and the Ingham County Tanker Task Force gave us the water we needed.”

Although firefighters were able to keep the fire away from the main barn and house, initial reports suggested that two cats had been killed in the flames.

Young farm worker rules misunderstood, Labor Department says

By JENNIFER CHEN
Capital News Service
LANSING – A proposed revision of federal regulations for young farm workers is in need of clarification, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. “Children employed in agriculture are some of the most vulnerable workers in America. Ensuring their welfare is a priority of the department, and this proposal is another element of our comprehensive approach,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. The revision aims to better regulate child labor in agriculture, including a better interpretation of the “parental exemption,” according to the department. The department said the proposed rules would not eliminate the parental exemption, created in 1966, which allows children of any age to work on even hazardous tasks on a farm owned by their parent.