Jan 17, 2023
EFI verification awarded to first farm labor contractor

AgSocio, an agricultural labor and service provider operating in California and Arizona, is the first company to complete an initial verification of Equitable Food Initiative’s (EFI) farm labor contractor (FLC) standards, as part of a pilot program.

EFI is the workforce development and certification organization that partners with growers, farmworkers, retailers and consumer groups.

Matt Rogers congratulates Juan Valdez, AgSocio’s tractor and irrigation supervisor, for completing EFI training. AgSocio is the first company to complete an initial verification of EFI’s farm labor contractor standards.

To receive verification to EFI’s farm labor contractor standards, AgSocio had to form, train and maintain a functional worker management team. Led by this body, AgSocio engaged its workforce to strengthen the management systems required by EFI’s FLC standards and underwent an audit and corrective action process to achieve its verified status, according to a news release.

With support from the Walmart Foundation, EFI launched the pilot program to verify that farm labor contractors meet the same rigorous labor standards that growers commit to in the farm certification program. The pilot program will be evaluated once all participating farm labor contractors finish the audit and verification process.

“The Walmart Foundation was pleased to provide funding to support EFI’s pilot program to strengthen the practices of farm labor contractors,” Gavin Bailey, Walmart Foundation program officer, said in the release. “Given that responsible recruitment is a key principle within the Ethical Charter on Responsible Labor Practices, it’s encouraging to see AgSocio engaging, and we hope others will follow their lead.”

While EFO continues to evaluate the lessons learned from the pilot program, it is important to highlight the consistent determination AgSocio has shown to meet the highest labor standards within the industry, and to demonstrate that a successful labor provider can also operate ethically and transparently, Peter O’Driscoll, EFI’s executive director, said in the release.

Farm labor contractors supply a large portion of the fresh produce workforce. According to the California Department of Industrial Relations, there are nearly 1,200 farm labor contractors with current registrations in that state alone. To this point, the produce industry has not offered a program by which contractors can demonstrate that they uphold responsible labor practices throughout the recruitment, contracting and deployment of their workforce, according to the release.

“We were eager to participate in the pilot program to assure our customers that we meet or exceed the labor standards included in the Ethical Charter and required by big buyers, and that we will open our doors to auditors to prove it,” Matt Rogers, AgSocio’s co-founder and general manager, said in the release. “The workforce development aspect of the EFI program provides a well-trained and motivated workforce that is critical to delivering the next-level productivity and service to our grower partners.”

Rogers and AgSocio’s team have been visionary in the process, showing how high labor standards can also be applied to workforces employed by farm labor contractors, Kenton Harmer, EFI’s director of market-based impact, said in the release. “AgSocio’s participation in EFI’s pilot program provided an important use case and model, showing the industry that farm labor contractors can be partners in assuring that essential farmworkers have been given the voice, agency and respect they deserve,” he said.

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