As of Flag Day, as somewhat anticipated, US Representative LaMar Smith, Chairman of House Judiciary Committee, has introduced legislation mandating E-VERIFY for all US employers.
- Employers with more than 10,000 employees must enroll within 6 months. Employers with no more than 500 employees must enroll within a year. Employers with more than 20 employees must enroll within 18 months. Employers with fewer than 20 employees must enroll within 2 years.
- For agriculture employers including farmers, the deadline is 3 years, and they may count seasonal workers hired in previous seasons as current employees who need not be re-verified.
- A strong pre-emption provision underscores that the Federal Government, not individual States, is the appropriate entity to make and enforce US Immigration Law in the workplace. However, the legislation allows states to use business licensing and similar laws to penalize employers for not using E-VERIFY.
- The Bill grants employers a safe harbor from prosecution of E-VERIFY if used in good faith.
Long Island Farm Bureau leaders are greatly concerned that the E-VERIFY mandate will, in effect, hurt the labor supply for agriculture, building trades, tourism, restaurants and other economic sectors reliant upon foreign workers. And, we have worked thru Farm Bureau to get the Congress to develop a guest worker program that actually works for farmers.
A second major public policy area that Long Island Farm Bureau has been immersed in is regarding the Suffolk County Groundwater Management Plan, Carmans River legislation in Brookhaven Town and last but not least the Long Island Pesticide Management Plan led by NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.
Long Island agriculture has been deemed the culprit for both nutrient contamination as well as pesticides being found in groundwater in both public and private wells. Along with our partner organizations such as Cornell Cooperative Extension, Suffolk County Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Peconic Land Trust and government agencies, Long Island Farm Bureau has publicly stated that is unacceptable criticism from the environmental community. NYS in our constitution, Agriculture and Markets Law, and NY Environment Conservation Law (Pine Barrens), agriculture is considered a preferred land use and extremely important to citizens of Long Island and New York State.
Recently, there has been some vindication from the Environmental Community that nearly half of the nutrient loading in surface and ground water is coming from the residential community meaning septic systems, cesspools, sewage treatment plants and lawns. There are two things that we know to be true as farmers – first, we cannot grow fruits, vegetables and nearly all plants without nutrients from organic or chemical fertilizers. With only 34,000 acres in production, one only has to fly over Long Island to visually see the land use patterns that impact our environment. Secondly, we have been working very closely with DEC and as we have stated publicly, zero tolerance is not an acceptable level. Chemicals and nutrients that are found in groundwater in parts per billion or quad-trillion do not pose a health risk to all citizens.
Long Island agriculture, in particular Suffolk County farmers, have been working cooperatively via the Suffolk County Agriculture Stewardship Program to employ best management practices as true environmentalists’ not environmental activists. On behalf of all our farmers, we are doing everything possible to be socially and environmentally responsible but we will not accept political science by the Environmental Community rather than sound science. We are delighted that the North Fork Environmental Council has initiated discussion with Long Island Farm Bureau with the premise we have a lot in common (goals) and are willing to work with us instead of a confrontational relationship. I foresee good things as we go forward.