A court case currently at the appellate court level could set a dangerous legal precedent and severely change the relationship growers have with their pest control advisors and farm labor contractors.

Amy Wolfe, president and CEO of AgSafe, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing employers and employees with the resources to prevent illness and injury, recently told a gathering of PCA’s that the Ag industry needs to have regular conversations regarding issues surrounding farm labor contractors and worker safety.

Wolfe spoke at the California Association of Pest Control Advisors (CAPCA) on the importance of these frank discussions.

The importance of the issue can be seen in the declining number of laborers available for field work. It is also evident in a legal case under appeal in California. Wolfe fears the later could have far-reaching ramifications well beyond the Ag labor market.

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There are currently about 1,200 unduplicated farm labor contractors (FLC) in California, Wolfe said. She uses the word “unduplicated” because some FLC’s have two licenses with expiration dates staggered six months apart because California “has so many issues in reissuing licenses,” she said.

Of the 1,200, Wolfe estimates that about 25 percent of them are operating “above-board” by employing PCAs and focusing hard on worker safety and the host of other issues regulators are keen to.

“These folks are doing the right thing,” she said. “Then you have the other 75 percent who don’t even realize that they need to be having these conversations.”

At the heart of Wolfe’s point is a court case that could forever change the relationship between the FLC and grower. Joint employer responsibility is a major facet of the discussion Wolfe says must begin now because of pending litigation.