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A day-haul crew is usually recognized by either the name of the crew leader or its locality where it stays, but the individuals within the crew are seldom recognized or most people don't even know they exist.
His education is usually neglected and he doesn't realize what medical attention he requires. The community in which he lives is often not aware of his existence or his needs until an epidemic or disaster brings some kind of attention to the general public.
The hospitals and county governments do not usually provide for migrant care in their budgets. The whole community does not usually feel that the migrant is a problem because of nonresidence and therefore excludes him from local assistance from some degree.
Most clinics and doctors are located in cities or in highly populated areas that are usually foreign to the migrant laborer. Due to his rural residence and the nature of his work, it is usually not possible for him to get to town or to a doctor or a hospital during the working hours because he doesn't want to lose the time or the pay that it takes, a sacrifice on his part, in order to get himself to the medical services that he needs.
The family clinics that we have available in the camps now I think have been the best thing that has happened. With the immunization of small children a lot of times other diseases are discovered, enough ahead of time to save great losses both to the farmer in the loss of the use of his labor, loss of time to the hospitals, and to the general public as a whole. Senator Williams. Do you
have a clinic on your farm? Mr. WHITE. We have a clinic in the proximity of the farm. It is not on the farm. At times we have had clinics set up where the county health department would conduct clinics in the camp. Now we have it more or less in a permanent location. Since the laborer has learned what it is and that it is there to help him, he can go to it.
I think much time is saved by this, to keep from moving a clinic all the time. The laborer finally has learned to go to it and to trust the people, and we have seen a difference.
Senator WILLIAMS. I imagine you have several farms. As an average, how far would your migrant employees have to go to this clinic?
Mr. White. The location of this clinic from the largest farm we have is approximately 4 to 5 miles.
Senator WILLIAMS. Do these migrants all have transportation?
Mr. WHITE. No, sir. The people that live on the farm or the family units usually have transportation. The singles do not. We have bus transportation for them to the fields. However, for the singles we conduct an inspection of the labor camp each morning. I have kept absentee records on labor for the past 12 years, and I maintain this record for 5 years on each employee. If the employee doesn't move his timecard in the morning, we check it to see what was the cause of his absence. If he was sick, we usually put a "S” on the card. If he was just plain absent, we mark it that.
This helped in a number of ways. It was designed to keep track of a large number of laborers, at the same time find out which ones had a habit of missing weekends and missing certain days of the week, but at the same time it was useful in finding out where the laborer was that had a health problem. The chronic illness is discovered very quickly by this method.
Senator WILLIAMS. You have a timecard on each employee?
Mr. White. We have a timecard system on all the employees that live on the farms.
On the day-haul crews we don't have this service, and this is where the problem still remains, in identifying the particular workers and getting the service to these crews. This is still the major problem.
Senator Williams. That complicates the social security withholding, doesn't it?
Mr. WHITE. We have tried to help the social security situation with the crew leaders on a contract basis where they have the responsibility to see that social security is deducted, and we usually follow it up to see that it is done. It is pretty well worked out now, at least on our farm.
Senator WILLIAMS. How are your crew leaders now? Would you consider them reliable and responsible leaders of their group of workers?
Mr. White. I would like to answer it this way. Crew leaders in general are one thing. Crew leaders on our farm are something else. We have had several years to develop a record whereby our crew leaders are reliable. We run a man-hour estimate every Friday of the total number of man-hours that will be used on the farm in the next 7 days, and I divide that figure by the number of hours for each worker, and the laborer knows this and we have pretty well steady employment the whole time that they are with us.
Due to this crew leaders are not looking for work part of the time. So, over a period of time there is some competition by crew leaders trying to work for us. I have a list and this is one reason I don't have a shortage of labor, and if I get a crew leader that gets lax in his job, let's say, and doesn't perform satisfactorily, I might dismiss him for a year and let him work in the community and find out what it is like, and he finds out how well he had it. It straightens him out.
All farmers might not be able to do this, but it works very well for us.
Another thing, the total amount of migrant labor in south Florida has not really changed in the last 10 years. We have approximately the same number of migrant laborers in the county that we had 10 years ago, and it is asking too much to tax a local community to pay the bills for people that move into the county overnight, with problems that we have no part of, we don't know anything about, and it reflects back on our local taxes and we have an influx that is tremendous in our county. A few counties in the country provide most of the fresh vegetables for the Nation in the middle of the winter.
I think this is one of the things that needs to be brought out. We have a nation to feed, and because of the climate and other conditions there are certain areas of the United States where these people will congregate in the winter months.
I think this creates a greater problem as far as epidemics or diseases and things that can be carried from other sections of the country are concerned, where a community may not be as strong as it would be if they stayed in the same place all the time.
Another thing that I think ought to be said here from the farmers' point of view is we hear a lot of talk about mechanics taking over agriculture. In the fresh produce or vegetable production we have a long way to go. The processors in the United States have finally developed machinery that will harvest tomatoes that are completely
ripe for processing, for instance, because processed fruit will be preserved, canned, dried, or frozen by some other means immediately after it is taken from the field, and in order to use these same methods for fresh produce, it would require development of new varieties.
For instance, on a tomato it would take one probably with a little tougher skin that would stand more bruising and handling by machinery.
Not only that, in the business I am in, of vine-ripened tomatoes, we pick the field maybe 60 or 70 times in the course of a winter. We don't have a machine yet, and I know of no one being developed, that would be able to separate the color from the immature fruit and the ripe fruit on the vine. These things are going to take several years to develop.
We are in the process now with the university of developing varieties that will lend themselves to mechanical harvesting. We have trials on the farm now. But this will take longer even than the 5-year extension that we hope will be provided here before we can see a difference.
I see no reduction in the need for the total amount of migrant labor in the next 5 years or it is not visible to me from where I sit as a farmer. That may begin to appear, but I think in a county like I live in, where we produce such a mass of vegetables for the Nation's winter consumption and there are so many varieties, so many machines would have to be developed that the engineering staffs at the present time through the universities and private concerns are not available to complete this program.
Senator WILLIAMS. How about the citrus crop? There you have a situation where you don't have to worry as much about bruising, but you still have to worry about the selection of the ripe from the unripe.
Mr. WHITE. Citrus usually matures at a more uniform rate on the tree. If the tree blooms uniformly, you have a uniform ripeness. They go by the test on a solid within the fruit to determine whether the tree is ready to harvest, and they harvest the whole tree at one time. The problem with citrus is that a lot of the older groves were not planted in such a fashion that machines would get in to harvest these rows.
The new ones are being laid out in sort of a hedge type or in rows where the new type machinery will adapt themselves to mechanical harvesting, and I think mechanical harvesting in citrus will take place at a much more rapid rate than it will in vegetables because you are dealing with a particular kind of fruit and citrus is almost the same whether it is in California or Florida or wherever it is. The problem is about the same.
This is about all I have on my report. I will be glad to answer any more questions.
Senator Williams. You have said a lot of things that have been most helpful to us, and you did indicate your support for the 5-year extension of the migrant health program that the subcommittee is now considering.
Mr. WHITE. That is correct. I think that 5 years we may find will not even be long enough.
Mr. BLACKWELL. Mr. White, did your records in fact show a decline in absenteeism from the fields after the Project Health Care was initiated with your work force?
Mr. White. Definitely it has caused a decline in our particular situation. We are near enough to the clinics so that the families that had chronic problems that needed to be, let's say, straightened out, got the assistance in time, I think, to help us, even to the point where the recordkeeping system now doesn't seem as important as it used to.
There are days now when I even fail to check the camp to see whether they are all working or not. I go by the time cards in the rack.
At one time it was serious enough that I had to check it every day. Now I do not do that, and I believe that we have accomplished quite a lot with the amount of funds that we have. I can definitely see the difference.
Mr. BLACKWELL. You are not giving specific percentages of decline, but if you used to have to check the camp and you no longer consider that a necessity, that implius a dramatic decline in absenteeism.
Mr. WHITE. I look at it from this viewpoint; that it has probably maybe caused a 30- or 40-percent difference in ours. At the same time we have caused families to become aware of medical assistance and a lot of them now have even decided to seek medical aid from a doctor or professional in town on their own.
Those that have transportation eventually go to a doctor and change over. I think maybe this will be the answer in future years when compensation becomes great enough to agricultural workers where they can afford to do it.
Mr. BLACKWELL. Worker attitude is of course subjective and difficult to evaluate. Do you have impressions of better attitudes on the part of the worker that would make him either a better worker or a more satisfactory person to have in your business operation because of the migrant health project?
Mr. White. Definitely, we do. The first experience I had with the attitude change was several years ago when the Asian flu became a serious problem. In our packinghouse we employ approximately 170 workers, and I can recal one afternoon when 80 of those people fell out with the flu.
We took immediate steps to try to remedy or prevent, and we finally supplied medicine and doctor care for particularly the packinghouse crew and the key workers in order to prevent such a thing happening in the future. We haven't done this in the last 2 or 3 years because we have the other program in effect, but when the workers know that you are trying to help, it changes their attitude, and when the farmer helps to support the program, they will get hold of it a lot quicker than they would if it is ignored. We have encouraged it.
Mr. BLACKWELL. Eighty of your workers contracted the flu out of a crew of 170?
Mr. WHITE. That is correct. Mr. BLACKWELL. That has a rather ominous economic implication. If you had a serious epidemic during a critical time of your processing and picking it would mean dollars out of your pocket, wouldn't it, if your workers weren't there to move the crop?
Mr. WHITE. That is correct. In a fresh vegetable crop you only have a matter of hours or at the most a day or two to stay within the maturity limits of the harvest on the particular crop when it needs to be harvested, and it is a loss if it is not properly harvested and refrigerated and shipped in that length of time, and with a major epidemic like this, it can really put you in a tight spot.
Mr. BLACKWELL. So even the loss of a week's harvest time due to a major epidemic would have a serious economic impact on your crop, wouldn't it?
Vír. WHITE. Definitely it would.
Mr. BLACKWELL. How many members are in your co-op, Mr. White?
Mr. WHITE. There are five at the present time.
Mr. BLACKWELL. And all of them are using the pooled camp facilities and the day-haul?
Mr. White. The way we are set up, as I explained earlier, we are a family co-op, which is my father-in-law, myself, two brothers-inlaw, and another member of the family. We farm as one total unit. We turn our production over to the cooperative and it operates this one major unit. We farm in two counties and three major farms, and this is consolidating our management and our sales force and also our labor.
I have been responsible for the labor and the production in the co-op for, well, since its existence.
Mr. BLACKWELL. What is the peak labor force of the five members?
Mr. White. We have a peak force of from a thousand to 1,400, depending on the year and the yield. Usually 1,200 would be a good average. At the present time we have about 500 or a little better employed.
Mr. BLACKWELL. How long have you been farming tomatoes in Palm Beach County?
Mr. White. We started in Palm Beach County in 1953.
Senator Williams. This committee sponsored legislation providing for a minimum wage for farmworkers on the larger farms. You are clearly under the minimum wage, aren't you?
Mr. White. No, sir; we are not.
Mr. WHITE. We are under the minimum wage, I guess, for agricultural workers, if that is what you are speaking of, yes.
Senator WILLIAMS. Yes. Mr. White. I think all the farmers pretty well pay that because when a large one has to pay the scale, the small ones have to follow or they do not get the labor.
Senator WILLIAMS. Even though they are not under the legal jurisdiction of the minimum wage legislation as a practical matter, they will have to follow you?
Mr. WHITE. The economics would dictate that.
I believe the one thing I would like to comment on is the minimum wage for agricultural workers as it is listed doesn't cover everything that it costs the farmer. We supply our labor with their housing, their electricity, their gas, and all the utilities, and even the transportation to work in addition to this wage in most cases, with the exception of day-haul crews which do not get all of these same benefits.
You add all this up, and it takes the farmer quite a lot more than what appears on a payroll sheet.
Senator WILLIAMS. The minimum wage is still at a dollar an hour, as I recall but in February it goes to $1.15. I imagine your workers make a lot more than that, anyway.
Mr. White. We work on an hourly base. Our own minimum is a dollar. Many make more than that, and of course the packers make