By: Jeffrey Lewis, President, Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs
As we recognize the closing of the 2017 National Farmworker Awareness Week, I want to applaud all those serving the farmworker community, and, in particular, salute the Association of Farmworker Opportunity Programs (AFOP) members for generating the results that enable the association to stand strong in this time of domestic budget cuts. Our work increases the skills of America’s agricultural workers and is an investment in the American workforce.
AFOP is a nationwide job-training and employment resource for employers and communities. Our Association has forged strong bonds of trust through decades of success in serving rural America. We have a long history of exceptional performance that has made – and continues to make – the National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP) one of the very best performing grant programs at the United States Department of Labor. Through the last 50 years of federal commitment to the nation’s agricultural workers, and counting, hundreds of thousands of farmworkers have developed career plans, earned portable skills, and obtained employment, speaking loudly about the need for and value of these programs. We are the best of programs that transform Americans with multiple job barriers into Americans with jobs—and as the president of the AFOP board, I am so very proud of each our members’ contributions.
This week, AFOP has embarked on its long-sleeve shirt campaign to help workers better protect themselves from pesticide and sun poisoning while laboring in the fields. Knowing of the quality of AFOP organization members, their workers, and the association staff, I am certain that this year’s drive will be the biggest and most successful yet for the farmworkers we all serve.
That said, we face significant challenges to ensuring the federal commitment to farmworker training and protection endure. I am certain, though, that all of us that strive each day in behalf of our country’s agricultural worker are up to meeting these challenges. We have allies and we have each other. What else could we ever need? Let us bolster ourselves for the good fight, and continue providing the very best services we can to the nation’s vulnerable, overlooked farmworker community.