By TIM ALEXANDER
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Around 2.5 million hired workers labor on American farms, many of them brought in only during a crop harvest. Recent estimates conclude that there will be a need for more than 85,000 additional yearly farm workers to ensure the food chain works to maximum efficiency.
The Illinois Pork Producers Association (IPPA) is attempting to help bridge the employment gap by offering a pair of programs to help farmers and ranchers acquire the employees they need. IPPA’s International Worker Resource Guide lists various international companies that producers may utilize for hiring workers. The purpose of the guide is to provide general guidance for how a producer can support their newcomers once they arrive on-site, according to Thomas Titus, a pig farmer from Elkhart, Illinois and IPPA immediate past president.
“This unique resource guide is available through the IPPA website. It was created in partnership with an organization out of Tennessee that helps with placement, to assist employers who may have never used one of the visa programs. It helps with the onboarding process and things people might not think to have prepared in advance of receiving new employees,” said Titus.
The guide includes pre-arrival planning tips for housing and clothing to help ease a migrant worker’s initial transition to new employment and new surroundings. For example, it is
industry practice that the producer plans to supply housing for two to three months after the worker’s initial arrival. The guide also offers tips such as providing basic household goods and food in the housing unit, along with assistance in identifying the closest grocery stores and cultural food shops. Employers should support their new hires in shopping for clothing, footwear, and other necessities.
In addition, employers should welcome migrant workers at the airport or station and transport them to secured housing. On the first day, employers should provide new hires with initial emergency contact information, a ready-to-eat meal, and a brief orientation to the new living arrangements, including guidance on locks, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and 911 services. They should also provide newcomers with pocket money to support their independence; $50 is the standard practice.
Securing a social security number (SSN) for an international worker is a top priority. If utilizing a recruiting company, it is recommended that producers verify the company will be assisting with the social security process. Regardless, producers should advise newcomers that they need to apply for a SSN as soon as possible.
Producers should also ensure that migrant workers have knowledge of how to secure their state-issued driver’s license, medical services and banking services. Migrants should also have access to money wiring services, state human services departments, local city offices for immigrants, and other statewide offices for newcomers.
In addition to the migrant employee resource guide, IPPA has announced a new, $1,000 scholarship program for applicants seeking to obtain or renew their commercial driver’s license (CDL) in Illinois. The scholarship program is being launched to help incentivize more candidates to consider a career in trucking to help Illinois pork producers haul their livestock, Titus explained.
“We are in a shortage of truck drivers all over the country. By providing this scholarship for folks to get their CDLs it will help provide good training and certification for potential livestock haulers,” said Titus. “The scholarship program is something we as an organization are very proud of.”
To qualify for the scholarship grant, applicants must have a valid Transport Quality Assurance (TQA) certification (or sign up for the class) and work for a producer located in Illinois. New, stricter federal CDL requirements now require entry-level drivers to successfully complete a prescribed program on theory and behind-the-wheel instruction prior to taking the CDL test, which the scholarship helps to cover.
For questions about IPPA’s CDL scholarship program, email Mike Borgic at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (217) 529-3100.
To acquire an IPPA International Worker Resource Guide, visit www.ilpork.com.