Ag Innovations

Workforce Housing and Transportation Project

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California specialty crop growers consistently rank availability of production and harvest labor as a critical risk factor in their profitability and long-term viability. While immigration policy plays a role in this issue, there are two main issue areas in California that if addressed would make it easier for growers to find and maintain a consistent specialty crop workforce: the availability of affordable housing, particularly for harvest workers, and access to local transportation to fields and facilities.


In response to a request from the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, Ag Innovations began an initiative early in 2013 to bring together leaders from agriculture, labor, housing, and transportation to examine the local and state policy barriers and community issues that make it difficult to house and transport the workers needed by specialty crop growers. The outcome of this effort is a set of concrete recommendations outlined in our Shelter + Mobility report to local and state governments, the specialty crop industry, nongovernmental organizations, and communities on how they can increase housing and transportation resources for specialty crop workers, increase their access to jobs in the sector, and sustain the specialty crop industry.

Ag Innovations employed a traditional and robust methodology in three process phases of the project. This allowed all stakeholders to have input in identifying the issues, shaping the agenda, and generating solutions and recommendations.

  1. Data gathering and synthesis. A group of 50 leaders representing agriculture, labor, labor contracting, affordable housing developers, housing and transportation service providers, supply chain partners, government agencies, etc., were recruited to participate. They were individually interviewed to collect their various perspectives on the housing and transportation issues, challenges, and barriers faced by workers and the industry. The interview data was synthesized and reported back to the group at a statewide summit of the stakeholders, during which they discussed the findings and decided on a course of action for phase two outlined in item three below.
  2. Solution exploration and refinement. The group self-organized into two working groups and continued its development of solution recommendations via virtual meetings (webinars and teleconferences) during the course of the following four to six months. This phase culminated with a consensus agreement from the group on the final set of recommendations to be published.
  3. Dissemination and outreach. The group devised a strategy for disseminating the recommendations to desired and appropriate target audiences. Additionally, individual members assisted in the outreach and presentation to these audiences. The project wrapped up with the publication of a final report.

“By guiding collaborative and productive solutions to both today’s and tomorrow's problems, Ag Innovations has helped shape and inform the movement to improve California's food and farming system.”
Craig McNamara, California State Board of Food and Agriculture/Sierra Orchards

Results


Image representing Shelter + Mobility: Recommendations for California's Specialty Crop Ag Workforce

Shelter + Mobility: Recommendations for California's Specialty Crop Ag Workforce

SHELTER + MOBILITY: Recommendations for California’s Specialty Crop Ag Workforce offers a set of concrete recommendations to stakeholders on how they can act to increase housing and transportation resources for specialty crop workers, increase their access to jobs in the sector, and sustain the industry.

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Resources


General Information

"The End of Farm Labor Abundance" (2012) is an article published in Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy authored by J. Edward Taylor, Diane Charlton, and Antonio Yunez-Naude on labor market trends in Mexico and their impacts on U.S. agriculture.

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"Mexicans Are Leaving Farm Work: What Does It Mean for U.S. Agriculture and Immigration Policy?" (2013) is an article published in the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics’ Agricultural and Resource Economics Update authored by J. Edward Taylor and Diane Charlton on labor market trends in Mexico and their impacts on U.S. agriculture.

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"Suffering In Silence: A Report on the Health of California’s Agricultural Workers" (2000) was published by The California Endowment of a study conducted by the California Institute for Rural Studies (CIRS) on the health of California’s agricultural workers.

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Prepared by the California Department of Public Health, "The Overlapping Issues of Health and Housing: A Report on California Statewide Data and Healthy Housing Indicators" (2013) is intended to inform, support, and enhance the efforts of those interested in making housing throughout the state healthier.

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The chapter "The Challenge of Housing California’s Hired Farm Laborers" (2011) in Don Villarejo's book, (ITALICIZE BOOK TITLE) Rural Housing, Exurbanization, and Amenity-Driven Development addresses the housing and living conditions of California’s agricultural workers.

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Data on Housing Stock Cost and Farmworker Wages

California Department of Housing and Community Development

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California Farm Bureau Federation and Farm Employers Labor Service (FELS) annual wage survey

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US Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration’s National Ag Worker Survey

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Transportation

The "CalTrans Agricultural Worker Transportation Program Report"(2010) is the final report to the State Legislature by CalTrans on the Agricultural Worker Transportation Program (AWTP).

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The "CalTrans Agricultural Worker Transportation Needs Assessment" (2003) from CalTrans is a final report on the Agricultural Industries Transportation Services (AITS) statewide needs assessment study.

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Regional Studies

"The States of Farm Labor Housing and the Health of Workers" is a 2015 report by The California Institute of Rural Studies.

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The "Policy Brief on Housing in East Coachella Valley" (2013) is prepared by the California Institute for Rural Studies (CIRS) on the status of housing in the East Coachella Valley.

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The "Policy Brief on Public Transportation in East Coachella Valley" (2013) is prepared by the California Institute for Rural Studies (CIRS) on the status of public transportation in the East Coachella Valley.

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The "Napa County Farmworker Housing Needs Assessment" (2013) by BAE urban economics was created for Napa County Housing and Intergovernmental Affairs.

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The "Assessment of the Demand for Farm Worker Housing and Transportation in Mendocino County" (2008) was conducted by the California Institute for Rural Studies (CIRS).

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The "Assessment of the Demand for Farm Worker Housing in Napa County" (2007) was conducted by the California Institute for Rural Studies (CIRS).

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"A Study of the Farm Worker Service Economy in Parlier" (1995) was prepared for at the Conference on the Changing Face of Rural California in 1995 by Dave Runsten, Ed Kissam, and JoAnn Intili.

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Examples of Regional/Statewide Affordable Housing and Transportation Councils

California Employer Advisory Council

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House Farm Workers! Program, Ventura

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Social Services Transportation Advisory Councils

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Local Housing Elements

Building Blocks for Effective Housing Elements, by California Department of Housing and Community Development

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Ventura County housing element

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Rural CA Information and Studies

California Institute for Rural Studies published a blog post on the "Changing Rural Definition Threatens Loss of Millions of Dollars of Federal Housing Assistance in California"(2012) in their Rural California Report.

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"Smart Growth in Rural California" was presented by the Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability, and is a working paper that outlines a land use and investment plan for all of California.

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Insurance Information

Nonprofits’ Insurance Alliance of California is a nonprofit risk pool that provides liability and commercial coverage, but only for nonprofits. This type of coverage would be helpful to a nonprofit organization that might provide transportation, training, or other services to the specialty crop workforce. It could not provide coverage to farmers and employers directly.

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Affordable Housing Risk Pool (AHRP) is designed specifically for tax credit partnerships, affiliated nonprofits, and nonprofit affordable housing owners in Oregon, Washington, Nevada and California. The principle of "pooling" is to incorporate similar operations into a combined group to purchase insurance coverage at a reduced cost. This organization provides coverage for affordable housing entities only.

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California Organized Investment Network is a program by the Department of Insurance to encourage insurers to invest in underserved and rural communities.

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Related Legislation

AB 60

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AB 1037

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SB 375 & AB 32

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