Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Another level of oversight for farmers who hire migrant workers?

You could be burdened with another level of oversight in your management of migrant workers if a concept advanced by Reynolds American (RAI) finds favor. The new president and CEO of RAI, Daniel Delen, proposed the formation of a council to investigate farm worker conditions when he spoke at the company's annual shareholder meeting on May 6. I talked to a spokesman for the company today (May 10), and he told me the panel as proposed would include manufacturers, growers, the N.C. Labor Department, agricultural scientists, farm workers and their representatives such as the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and perhaps others. "Formation of such a council, when properly constituted, might well make a significant contribution to the improvement of worker safety and living conditions on the farms," said Delen. [Editor's note: Let's hope our grower associations get involved in this debate pronto. It looks to me like a backdoor attempt to give quasi-unions undefended access to your operation.]  In a related development, he also announced that RAI will seek an independent, third-party monitor to assess the working conditions of workers at the tobacco farms RJRT contracts with, said RJRT spokesman David Howard. The monitoring will involve on-farm visits and will probably take place this season.The Winston-Salem Journal reported that Delen repeated RJRT's stance that "it is not the company's role to negotiate on behalf of non-Reynolds workers...Delen, who took over as chief executive and president of Reynolds in March, said, 'We believe no company has done more than R.J. Reynolds to promote farm-worker safety and improved working conditions on tobacco farms in North Carolina and beyond.' "

In other news:

         --A website to help farmers predict flights of tobacco thrips and to suppress tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) is now available fromN.C.State University. The TSWV and Thrips Exposure Tool for Tobaccouses temperature and precipitation data to predict the timing of thrips flight and provides recommendations based on transplant dates, says Hannah Burrack, N.C. Extension entomologist. Actigard treatments timed to thrips flights lower TSWV incidence, she says. For now, she recommends the website for use only in N.C. The website is located atwww.nc-climate.ncsu.edu/thrips/index.php.
               --Cigarette manufacturer Commonwealth Brands has canceled plans to move from Bowling Green, Ky., to Goodlettsville, Tn. It will instead relocate to Fort Lauderdale, Fl., where its operations will be integrated with those of cigar maker Altadis USA, already headquartered there. Both companies are owned by Imperial Tobacco.

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