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U.S. Custom Harvesters convention addresses labor force

Tara Heil Published on 09 April 2014

Equipment clinics kicked off the 2014 U.S. Custom Harvesters Inc. convention at the Century II Convention Center in Wichita, Kansas.

The annual event, which this year drew more than 900 attendees, included forage equipment clinics presented by Krone, New Holland, John Deere and CLAAS, as well as combine clinics presented by Case IH, AGCO, New Holland, CLAAS and John Deere. During the clinics, manufacturers answered questions and offered an overview of new developments and technologies.

The 2014 convention’s first day also included a session on Shredlage with Randy Shaver of the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and a discussion with forage equipment manufacturers on the handling of corn Shredlage.

Frank Gasperini, executive vice president of the National Council of Agricultural Employers, updated members on the labor situation, including an overview of legislation and regulations and what’s coming up for the H-2A visa program.

The H-2A program allows American employers to bring people from other countries to the U.S. to fill temporary agricultural jobs.

“One of the organization’s biggest challenges has been a labor force,” said USCHI Executive Director Tracy Zeorian of Manley, Nebraska, a former USCHI president. “Unfortunately, the seasonal time frame of the industry doesn’t work real well for college students, as it used to in the past. The need for a Class A commercial driver’s license also poses a challenge.”

Zeorian said the H-2A program needs to be overhauled, and until that happens, USCHI will continue to work in Washington, D.C., to make the program less burdensome to both employees and employers.

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In keeping with USCHI’s focus on workforce issues, Susan Lang, an investigator with the U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division, covered topics related to H-2A employment, common violations of the program’s rules and information on compliance assistance.

Erika Poppelreiter, who manages social media outlets for the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, talked about her work to help tell the stories of farmers and ranches and initiate a dialogue with consumers about how their food is raised.

Consultant Jolene Brown talked to members about mistakes that can break up a family business. Later, farmer, radio show host and pro-agriculture activist Trent Loos presented a fact-packed session on the disconnect between consumers and their food and the necessity of educating Americans about the food supply.

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A dinner, presentation of six USCHI memorial scholarships, USCHI Hall of Fame inductions and a preview of “The Great American Wheat Harvest” movie capped the events. The convention closed with a cowboy church service.

In addition to the variety of speakers and informative sessions, the convention also included a trade show, open daily only to USCHI members, with booths of 92 industry-specific vendors ranging from equipment manufacturers and dealers to print media and insurance providers.

Now, with the 2014 convention in the books, the USCHI board already has started preparing for the 2015 event at the Nebraska State Fair facilities.

For more information on the organization, membership, locating a custom harvester or the upcoming convention Jan. 27-29, 2015, in Grand Island, Nebraska, visit the USCHI website or call the office at (620) 664-6297.  FG

Photos courtesy of Tara Heil.