The following statement was made by NCFC President Charles F. Conner at a press conference to discuss the impact of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) on agriculture hosted by House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Frank Lucas (R-Okla.). Also speaking at the press conference were Representative Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Representative Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Tom Nassif, President & CEO of Western Growers, and Steve Patricio, a California produce grower.
“Good afternoon, and I’d like to thank Mr. Lucas, Mr. McKeon, Mr. Pence and Mr. McCarthy for inviting me here today to say a few words about the potential impact that card check legislation would have on agricultural businesses across the country. “I am Chuck Conner, and I am president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, an 81-year-old trade association defending the interests of businesses owned and controlled by America’s farmers and ranchers.
“There are over 2500 farmer co-ops across the country and their member-owners represent the majority of our 2 million agricultural producers here in the U.S. “Farmer co-ops serve a vital role as the link between individual producers and the rest of the food and agriculture chain. They provide inputs at competitive costs to their farmer-owners, process and market the farmer’s products to consumers, and provide individual producers with the ability to compete in an international marketplace.
“NCFC strongly opposes the Employee Free Choice Act, also known as card check legislation. Passage of this bill is bad for U.S. business in general, but it would have a particularly negative impact on agriculture. Given the size and structure of individual agricultural and agribusiness operations—and given the daily struggle many of them face during this economic crisis—we can ill afford the risk associated with this legislation.
“Disruptions potentially caused by the bill would have ripple effects felt up and down the supply chain—from farmers in the fields to consumers in the supermarket aisles.
“Farmer cooperatives provide jobs for over 300,000 Americans; the majority of these are in rural areas, where other employment opportunities are often limited. Our stand is not about being for or against labor unions. It is about ensuring that these 300,000 co-op employees, members of the co-op family, have the same rights to a secret ballot—when choosing to organize a union—as the member-owners of cooperatives do when they elect a board of farmer directors.
“We need to make sure that farmer cooperatives remain competitive and are incentivized to grow, creating new jobs. Passage of the EFCA will have the opposite affect, and will add to the economic burden being borne by our hardworking farm and ranch families.”
NCFC is a national association representing America’s farmer cooperatives. There are nearly 3,000 farmer cooperatives across the U.S. whose members include a majority of our nation’s more than 2 million farmers, ranchers and growers. These farmer cooperative businesses handle, process and market agricultural commodities and related products, furnish farm supplies, and provide credit and related financial services. Earnings from these activities are returned to their members on a patronage basis. Farmer cooperatives also provide jobs for nearly 300,000 Americans, many in rural areas, with a combined payroll of over $8 billion.Additional information about NCFC can be found at www.ncfc.org.