Commissioner Weathers: Second Annual South Carolina Agricultural Labor Forum

The Second Annual South Carolina Agricultural Labor Forum was held Wednesday, February 14 at the State Farmers Market in West Columbia, SC. Ag Commissioner Hugh Weathers tells us more about this forum and how it positively impacts farmers in South Carolina.

  • The Second Annual South Carolina Agricultural Labor Forum was a full-day program from 8:00am to 4:30pm
  • This event was co-sponsored by the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, National Council of Agricultural Employers, and the South Carolina Farm Bureau
  • Michael Lalich, President of Lowcountry Labor, was there. Lalich serves as a middle man between employers and seasonal foreign-born workers.
  • Michael Marsh with the National Council of Agricultural Employers was our Keynote Speaker.
  • The Forum provides agricultural employers practical guidance about wage and hour laws, worker protection standards and OSHA, immigration and I-9 compliance, the H-2A guest worker programs, and their rights during a Department of Labor investigation.
  • Topics will included:
    • Is the H-2A Program for Me? Getting Started and If You Are in It
    • What’s New with the NEW Worker Protection Standards and Hazcom Requirements
  • South Carolina is one of the top 10 states to use the H2A visa program.
  • The top crops for H-2A workers are tobacco, oranges, cotton, and onions, but in South Carolina it is peaches.
  • In the United States, during the first three months of 2017, the Department of Labor approved applications to fill 69,272 farm jobs with workers on H-2A visas. This is an increase of 36 percent in the recent years
  • The H-2A visa program has been growing steadily, mostly because farmers have had increasing difficulty recruiting enough workers here in the U.S. Previous increases ranged from 10 to 20 percent per year, far short of the big jump in 2017.
  • These facts are a prime example why the Second Annual South Carolina Agricultural Labor Forum is so important for South Carolina Farmers.
  • Farmers need to be educated about the changes to the H2A visas and regulations and understand the complicated H2 system that is steadily growing.