Archives

Sign the letter today! Protect Michigan Farmworker Minimum Wage

Sign it here! Deadline May 15.NINO

The right to a minimum wage is one of the most basic and fundamental protections a worker can count on in the workplace. Agricultural workers are among the most vulnerable and often-exploited workers, doing one of the most dangerous, and essential jobs, in today’s economy. Michigan’s Wage and Hour laws are meant to offer stateside protection to workers where the federal government will not. Until very recently, this included agricultural workers on Michigan’s small farms. However, on December 19, 2017, then-Attorney General Bill Schuette changed that.

AG Opinion #7301, reinterprets a part of Michigan’s minimum wage laws (known as the Workforce Opportunity Wage Act (WOWA)) as excluding workers on Michigan’s small farms from minimum wage protections. In his opinion, the former Attorney General concluded, “This construction of subsection 10(1)(b) has the effect of leaving some employees without a right to a minimum hourly wage under the WOWA (or the FLSA).” The interpretation reversed a decade-long understanding, one confirmed by the legislative history surrounding the section’s passage, that this subsection offered minimum wage protection to all workers, including those on small farms.

While the former Attorney General did not change his position, there’s a new AG in charge. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights, at the direction of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, has asked Attorney General Dana Nessel to reconsider AG #7301.

UPDATE: Attorney General Dana Nessel has accepted this request and asks for public comments through mid-May as she prepares to make a decision. Support this request by signing your organization, your business, your church or faith community, or just yourself to this letter. The signature period closes on Wednesday, May 15.

Local collaborative releases Environmental Justice Report

report cverOver the past few years, Our Kitchen Table has joined with other Grand Rapids area agencies and nonprofits to form the Grand Rapids Environmental Justice Collaborative with the goal of developing a comprehensive report on local EJ issues. Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice‘s Guy Williams provided great direction. You can read the full report here.

The Environmental Justice Collaborative’s report will give the city of Grand Rapids’ officials and leaders a baseline. It will paint a picture of where the city is today as far as environmental inequities impacting its most vulnerable residents, most often people of color. And, it will present a vision for a future — hopefully a near future — that creates a healthier, safer, life-affirming environment for everyone living in  the greater Grand Rapids area.

 

President’s Budget Proposes Elimination of WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program

Posted from The Farmers’ Market Coalition 

by Ben Feldman, FMC Executive Director | ben@farmersmarketcoalition.org

ProjectFresh_logo_547746_7Earlier this week, the President’s FY 2020 budget was released, proposing significant cuts to USDA programs, including eliminating funding for the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program (WIC FMNP).

While farmers market programs fare better than in previous presidential budget proposals, eliminating WIC FMNP would undermine years of work to ensure that low income families, particularly women and children, have access to healthy produce from America’s family-owned farms.

Each year, WIC FMNP directly connects over a 1.5 million low income families to 17,000 independent farmers at local farmers markets nationwide. The impact of the program cannot be understated. When WIC FMNP was created in 1992, it was the first program of its kind, and the first time that the WIC program included fresh fruits and vegetables.

Still today, WIC FMNP provides an additional 67 million servings of fruits and vegetables each year to low income, pregnant women and children – healthy produce that they otherwise may not have been able to put on their tables. Scientific research supports this idea, and has shown that WIC FMNP increases access to, and consumption of, produce among WIC families.

For farmers markets and farmers, the program represents meaningful income that helps to keep them in business. Greenmarkets, a New York City based non-profit market operator estimates that the elimination of the WIC FMNP program would force the closure of 13 of their farmers markets, while in Washington state, markets have estimated that 400 jobs would be lost without WIC FMNP.

In short, not only does the program provide more healthy food for our most vulnerable neighbors, it stimulates real economic growth for local farmers and businesses.

While Congress, not the president, actually sets federal spending, the proposal to eliminate WIC FMNP sends a clear message that the best interests of low income families and local farmers are not priorities of the administration.

Within the coming days, FMC will be working with congressional champions to demonstrate support for the program on Capitol Hill. In the meantime please contact your legislators to let them know how the elimination of WIC FMNP would impact your market.

Together, we can stand up for this important program.

Farmers Market SNAP Programs Face Challenges from Gov’t Shutdown, Novo Dia Uncertainties

Posted On: January 16, 2019 By Farmers’ Markets Coalition

by Ben Feldman, FMC Executive Director | ben@farmersmarketcoalition.org

unnamed (2)Since its inception, FMC has prioritized advocating for support for SNAP EBT equipment and administrative funding to increase SNAP access at farmers markets. In 2012, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) first began offering support using $4 million in funds from the President’s annual budget for the agency. Now, seven years later, a variety of avenues have been pursued and tested, with significant gains made: the share of SNAP dollars spent at farmers markets continues to rise, even as total SNAP dollars spent decreases across the country.

However, farmers markets will not be able to reach their full potential as fresh food access points for our low-income shoppers until markets have long-term access to no-cost, reliable, wireless SNAP processing systems at farmers markets.

July of 2018 highlighted the tenuous situation of equipment access at farmers markets, when one of the major equipment providers, Novo Dia Group, announced that they would be shutting down by the end of that month. Immediately after the announcement in July, FMC set up aninformation center where markets could find updates on the situation and information on alternative equipment options, and launched a mini-grant program to help out markets in dire need.

While temporary relief was found, farmers markets once again face uncertainty with regard to SNAP on a number of fronts. Although provisions were made to extend Novo Dia’s service through February 2019, the company has not provided clarity regarding their future. In responding to FMC’s request for additional information, Novo Dia representatives responded by saying “NDG never stated that a shutdown would occur at the end of February 2019,” and that future updates would be posted on their website.

Additionally, the unprecedented, partial government shutdown has further complicated the SNAP picture for farmers markets in the following ways:

  • Prior to the shutdown, USDA Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) was exploring options for avoiding a disruption in service by Novo Dia, should the company cease operations. Since the beginning of the shutdown, no further planning has occurred and it remains unclear what, if any, options are being pursued by FNS.
  • No new authorizations to accept SNAP are being processed by FNS. Farmers markets seeking authorization to accept SNAP will be forced to wait until the government reopens for there to be any progress on their application.
  • Implementation of the recently passed farm bill has not begun. Under normal circumstances, USDA would be moving quickly to review the final language that was signed into law and begin the implementation process. This includes language directing FNS to ensure markets are able to operate SNAP programs without needing multiple FNS numbers or terminals. Because the shutdown followed almost immediately after the passage of the farm bill, staff were unable to make any progress towards implementation of this or other provisions related to farmers markets.
  • Lastly the federal government is scrambling to ensure funding for SNAP recipients funding, resulting in the need for an early payout of billions of dollars for the month of February. The Trump administration is bankrolling $4.8 billion in benefits to SNAP redeeming outlets by January 20th. For SNAP redeeming farmers markets, this may result in an influx of SNAP dollars in the next two weeks while leaving future funding uncertain once the allocations are spent. FMC encourages markets to notify farmers and vendors accepting SNAP that there may be an increased demand for fresh foods through the program. Equally important is communicating to recipients the early funding implications, as there may be some confusions around the extra benefits received. A list of the dates each state will be releasing February SNAP funds has been compiled by USDA and can be found here.

In the meantime, FMC will continue its work to provide stability for markets offering SNAP. Throughout 2019, FMC will also continue to coordinate with markets, network leaders, elected officials and the USDA to compile and share information, assess the problem, and identify paths of action to help markets avoid a disruption in SNAP services.

Additionally, FMC will step up efforts to support the inclusion of free wireless EBT equipment for markets in state SNAP contracts through collaboration with state partners and policy leaders. We believe that such an approach is needed in order to ensure a long term solution that protects markets from the uncertainty they face today.

Government shutdown to kick SNAP recipients in their empty stomachs

Our Kitchen Table received a copy of this press release from Michigan Department of Social Services this morning. While the president had fun feeding football players fast food in Washington DC, those relying on food assistance to feed their families are expected to simply fast.

The State of Michigan is trying to help SNAP recipients by providing February benefits early.

food