The issue of inadequate housing and transportation for California’s specialty crop workers has long been identified as a serious concern by the industry, labor advocates, local communities, and government. This current initiative began during the Cal Ag Vision process, a comprehensive planning process for the state’s agricultural and food system initiated by the California State Board of Food and Agriculture, managed by the American Farmland Trust, and facilitated by Ag Innovations.
Ag Innovations brought together a cross-sector leadership group to develop a set of recommended actions to increase housing and transportation resources for specialty crop workers. In early 2013, a group of 50 leaders representing agriculture, labor, labor contracting, affordable housing developers, housing and transportation service providers, supply chain partners, and government agencies were recruited to participate in the project. Following the May 2013 summit, a working group on housing and another on transportation each strove, over the course of 6 months, to find common ground on the problems and recommendations for improvement in each area. The efforts of the two working groups were combined into a final report entitled SHELTER + MOBILITY: Recommendations for California’s Specialty Crop Ag Workforce that outlines findings and recommendations for both housing and transportation issues. The key recommendations from the report include the following:
- Improve existing and develop new affordable and decent housing for specialty crop farm workers and their families by establishing new, dedicated state funding sources, and by reducing costs and barriers to such improvements.
- Conduct needed studies on current farmworker housing and transportation conditions and needs, and create a central, online repository to house information related to farmworker housing and transportation as a resource for housing providers, local governments, planning agencies, and advocates.
- Increase effective incorporation of farmworker housing and transportation needs in federal, state, regional, and local planning and funding policies and priorities through the development of formal, regional advisory councils and a statewide council.
- Maintain the newly revised definition of “rural” under federal law beyond the next census and create a recognized and accepted rural-specific definition of ”smart growth” consistent with the aims and terms of AB 32.
- Increase farmworker transportation options, both public and private.
- Increase farmworker driver safety awareness and practice through the establishment of a consistent program for driver education and safety training for farmworkers and their families.