WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The U.S. Secretary of Labor, Thomas E. Perez, met Friday, April 8, 2016, with the Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) and its stakeholders in Oxnard, California, on the first farm to be certified by the organization. EFI is a nonprofit organization that brings together workers, growers and retailers in the effort to produce safer, more responsibly grown fruits and vegetables. The visit was an opportunity for the Secretary to learn more about EFI’s multi-stakeholder approach, and to speak with farmworkers and industry leaders involved in the program.
“Organizations like the Equitable Food Initiative understand that partnerships are important to forging win-win solutions to common problems, like labor standards and food safety,” said Secretary Perez. “I was heartened to see firsthand how this partnership of unions, consumer groups, growers and buyers is working to invest in their workers and create shared prosperity. They reject the false choice that says you can either create value for shareholders or treat workers with dignity – they know they can and must do both. Every day, EFI proves that you can turn a profit by amplifying rather than undermining worker voice.”
Joining the Secretary in the visit were representatives from EFI stakeholder organizations, including farmworker organizations United Farm Workers (UFW), Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), and Farmworker Justice; board member organizations, including Oxfam America and Pesticide Action Network; five produce grower and marketing organizations, including Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce (A&W), Houweling’s Tomatoes, Windset Farms, Keystone Fruit Marketing and Alpine Fresh; and retail partners Costco Wholesale and Whole Foods Market.
Congresswoman Julia Brownley, who represents California’s 26th district, was also in attendance and commented: “As an advocate for Ventura County’s agricultural community, I wholeheartedly support the efforts of the Equitable Food Initiative and their commitment to supporting farmers and farmworkers in partnerships that yield better working conditions for farmworkers, higher quality fruits and vegetables for consumers, and well-deserved recognition for participating farmers. I applaud Andrew & Williamson’s Crisalida Berry Farm, the first in the nation to receive EFI certification, and a shining example of Ventura County's excellence in agriculture.”
The event included a tour of the operations, followed by a meeting between the Secretary and the farm’s “Leadership Team” – made up of workers representing every position on the farm. The team participates in intensive workforce development training, educates their colleagues, and works together to verify the farm’s compliance with EFI’s standards for labor, food safety and pest management.
The Secretary used this unique gathering of industry leaders to engage in a discussion around their concerns and to learn about the group’s collaborative efforts to create value for all groups – from farmworkers to consumers. Ernie Farley, partner at A&W, said: “It is encouraging to hear the Secretary acknowledge our work in addressing many of the labor issues in agriculture. We are committed to continuous improvement of our farm practices and are glad we are able to share our experiences with both the Secretary and our industry colleagues.”
EFI’s executive director, Peter O’Driscoll, says that the Secretary’s visit is an important milestone for EFI. “We believe strongly that the EFI model demonstrates how creating a space for all stakeholders to come together and have their voices heard not only improves labor practices, but also helps build a new culture of shared value creation within the produce industry. Secretary Perez’s interest in seeing the program in action and listening to the stakeholders who put it together reinforces our belief that EFI can expand this collaborative approach by engaging new retail and grower partners.”
For more information on EFI, visit: http://www.equitablefood.org/.
About Equitable Food Initiative
The Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) brings together workers, growers and retailers to provide “Responsibly Grown. Farmworker Assured.™” fruits and vegetables. As produce farms comply with the EFI Standards — for improved working conditions, pest management, and food safety — the entire food system sees benefits, from farmworkers to businesses to agricultural communities and consumers.
EFI is a 501c3 nonprofit organization, and receives funding support from The Atlantic Philanthropies, Broad Reach Fund, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Rosenberg Foundation, Cedar Tree Foundation, Oxfam America and The Walt Disney Company.
Members of EFI’s multi-stakeholder board, which were instrumental in the development of the EFI Standards, include:
- Andrew and Williamson Fresh Produce International
- Bon Appeìtit Management Company
- Center for Science in the Public Interest
- Consumer Federation of America
- Costco Wholesale Corporation
- Farmworker Justice
- Farm Labor Organizing Committee
- Keystone Fruit Marketing, Inc.
- NatureSweet Tomatoes
- Oxfam America
- Pesticide Action Network North America
- Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste
- United Farm Workers