Farm Credit continues to support group’s worker safety and HR training – and now COVID as well
In agriculture as in most fields, workers and employers alike need ongoing training to keep up with changing requirements and advances in the field. Fortunately for California’s food and farming industries, a nonprofit called AgSafe has been providing specialized training in worker safety, health, human resources and food safety for 30 years.
In fact, Natalie Gupton, AgSafe’s Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, said nearly 100,000 employers, supervisors and farm workers have been trained over the years, adding that the $50,000 provided by the Farm Credit associations serving California since 2012 has been extremely helpful in making that happen.
“Our flagship event is our annual conference, and the support Farm Credit has given for that event has helped sustain it and ensure cost is not a barrier for the ag industry to attend,” Gupton said. “We certainly appreciate that support. We couldn’t do the work we do without the support you give us.”
Supporting Farm Credit institutions include American AgCredit, CoBank, Farm Credit West, and Fresno Madera Farm Credit – all of which are part of the nationwide Farm Credit System, the largest provider of credit to American agriculture.
Keith Hesterberg, President and Chief Executive Officer of Fresno Madera Farm Credit, said Farm Credit supports AgSafe because worker safety is a high priority for the industry.
“The safety of the essential workers who harvest and process the crops that feed America and the world is a top priority for the industry, and AgSafe has been a leader in safety training since its founding in 1991,” Hesterberg said. “Supporting its ongoing training efforts is a great investment.”
But HR training is equally important, noted Mark Littlefield, President and Chief Executive Officer of Farm Credit West, because employers need to stay abreast of ever-changing state laws and regulations.
“For example, the state requires farm labor contractors to take a nine-hour course each year to maintain a valid license,” Littlefield said. “Continuing education provided by AgSafe is an essential component of keeping our farms operating safely and in compliance with the state’s numerous employment laws, and Farm Credit is proud to help make it possible.”
The eight-person staff provides the bulk of the training, much of it developed by Vice President and Chief Education Officer Angelina Ceja in partnership with regional partners and guidance from state and federal agencies. Gupton said AgSafe provides free informational webinars and materials that are available to any group or organization involved in agricultural work in both English and Spanish. Grant opportunities had allowed the development of robust programs such as the California Agricultural Human Resource Certificate, an on-demand federal focused Agricultural Human Resource Certificate and an H2-A Cost Estimator.
Besides the industrywide training courses the company offers, she said AgSafe can provide specialized training for farming businesses with specific needs, such as sexual harassment prevention, injury and illness prevention plan development, first aid, and supervisor essentials. And while the bulk of the training takes place in California – the nonprofit is based in Modesto – AgSafe is now reaching out to farmers and ranchers in several other states as well. To help serve other regions more effectively, Gupton is based in Louisville, Ky.
Currently, she said, AgSafe is concentrating on COVID-19 prevention and compliance.
“People are looking for more information about COVID, so we prioritized our efforts to focus on providing reliable information to help the industry navigate regulations and provide best practices to keep our workforce safe. New information is coming out almost daily and our goal is to provide timely and succinct information,” she said.
Regardless of the training needs, she said AgSafe’s goal is simple: “to be the one-stop resource providing worker safety, health, and human resources, solutions for the food and farming industries. And we thank Farm Credit for its generous support in helping us strive toward that goal.”
About Farm Credit:
American AgCredit, CoBank, Farm Credit West and Fresno Madera Farm Credit are cooperatively owned lending institutions providing agriculture and rural communities with a dependable source of credit. For more than 100 years, the Farm Credit System has specialized in financing farmers, ranchers, farmer-owned cooperatives, rural utilities and agribusinesses. Farm Credit offers a broad range of loan products and financial services, including long-term real estate loans, operating lines of credit, equipment and facility loans, cash management and appraisal and leasing services…everything a “growing” business needs. For more information, visit www.farmcreditalliance.com.
AgSafe is a 501c3 nonprofit providing training, education, outreach and tools in the areas of safety, labor relations and human resources for the food and farming industries. Since 1991, AgSafe has educated nearly 100,000 employers, supervisors and workers about these critical issues. For more information about worker safety, human resources, labor relations or pesticide safety issues, please visit www.agsafe.org, call (209) 526-4400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.