– July 23, 2014

Farm Labor Contractor class May 14 in Fresno

AgSafe will host an eight-hour continuing education workshop to fulfill licensing requirements for Farm Labor Contractors on Saturday at the Fresno Convention Center, 848 M St. in downtown Fresno.

Topics to be covered include the state’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act, injury and illness prevention and Cal/OSHA safety regulations, federal and state wage and hour laws, workers compensation insurance, sexual harassment prevention and transportation and housing laws.

Amy Wolfe, executive director of the Modesto-based nonprofit AgSafe, said there are 1,200 FLCs in California — many of them third-party businesses linking seasonal workers and growers — that are required to undergo an annual licensing process.

“These are not dodgy guys running around in vans. I wouldn’t consider them sinister,” Wolfe said, keen to neutralize any negative connotations in referring to “middlemen” contractors or farm workers being “exempt” from the federal eight-hour workday.

“They are established businessmen and -women,” she said of FLCs. “It isn’t quite the seedy underbelly that it is often portrayed as.”

Wolfe said there is no exact figure for the number of seasonal and permanent agriculture laborers in the state but that rough estimates gauge the population at 500,000 to 650,000 workers.

AgSafe also will host FLC workshops Oct. 19 in Tulare and Dec. 7 in Fresno. The cost for the May 14 session is $225 to $250. For more information visit AgSafe online.

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Latest Local News

Written on 07/23/2014, 4:06 pm by Business Journal staff
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Written on 07/23/2014, 3:18 pm by Business Journal staff
Poindexter Nut Company will hold a job fair July 28 in Reedley as the company looks to fill around 75 positions in advance of the harvest season. The job fair, being held in partnership with the Economic Development Corporation serving Fresno County, will last from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Reedley Workforce Connection office at 1680 E. Manning Ave. Applicants are asked to bring a resume or other information to fill out an application. Poindexter Nut Company is seeking more than 75 seasonal and full-time workers. Positions available include sanitation, sorters, forklift operators, material handlers and stackers and truck drivers. Those hired following the event will work at the company's newly expanded walnut processing plant located at 5414 E. Floral Ave. in Selma. More information about the company or the recruitment fair can be found by calling the Fresno County EDC at (559) 464-5550. Established in the 1969, Poindexter Nut Company now employs more than 400 employees seasonally and process some 45 million pounds of walnuts a year that are exported to more than 45 countries.
Written on 07/23/2014, 2:09 pm by Business Journal staff
IFCO Systems, a Florida-based supplier of reusable plastic containers and pallets, will join Fresno's manufacturing sector when it moves into a 204,000 square-foot building on Elm Avenue this summer. Headquartered in Tampa, Fla., IFCO Systems supplies and sanitizes reusable plastic containers for the fresh food industry from more than 210 locations worldwide. Having operated in Fresno once before, the company will rejoin the Central Valley's fresh food sector, leasing a facility at 2855 S. Elm Ave. from Fresno Investments LLC, a division of The Buzz Oates Group of Companies based in Sacramento. Representing Fresno Investments, Nick Audino, senior vice president with Newmark Grubb Pearson Commercial, said IFCO Systems plans to be in the building some time in September or October, employing around 50 workers. With more than 180 million reusable plastic containers in circulation, IFCO Systems is the leading provider of reusable plastic containers to the fresh food sector worldwide. Established around 20 years ago, IFCO Systems is owned by supply-chain logistics company Brambles Limited based in Sydney, Australia.
Written on 07/23/2014, 2:02 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — It isn't a household name, but the company at the center of a food scandal in China helps make some of the world's most popular foods, including the Big Macs and Quarter Pounders served at McDonald's locations. OSI Group, a privately-held company based in Aurora, Illinois, was thrust into the spotlight this weekend when a Chinese TV station reported that one of its Shanghai plants repackaged old beef and chicken and slapped new expiration dates on them. The scare has ensnared chains including McDonald's, KFC, Burger King and Starbucks, all of which got ingredients from a unit of OSI (pronounced OH-see) in the region called Husi Food Co. The controversy deepened Wednesday when five workers for Husi, were detained by police. An official with China's food safety regulator told the Xinhua News Agency that some of the illegal conduct it uncovered was an arrangement "organized" by Husi. None of OSI's more than 50 other plants around the world have been implicated and CEO Sheldon Lavin noted in a statement that authorities in China have inspected and found no issues at its other facilities. He called what happened at the Shanghai location "completely unacceptable." The scandal is a blemish for OSI, which began as a family-run meat market in 1909 and prides itself on its high standards. The company notes on its website that it has a "strong heritage of quality and service" and that food safety and quality assurance are "guiding principles." Its business took off after Ray Kroc tapped it in the 1950s to be a beef supplier for McDonald's Corp. OSI grew alongside McDonald's as the hamburger chain expanded around the world, and even helped create the McRib. OSI doesn't have to report financial information, but according to PrivCo, which researches privately-held companies, it had $6.13 billion in sales last year. OSI doesn't publicly disclose all of its clients either, but it supplies numerous big-name chains including Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., for which it cooks some beans and carnitas and barbacoa meats. In the U.S., OSI has said it has systems in place to ensure products can be located and taken out of the system within two hours if any issues arise. Executives have said they work with an outside public relations agency to periodically stage mock crises to be prepared for real-life controversies. Richard Adams, a former owner of McDonald's restaurants in Southern California who now runs a consulting firm for franchisees, said OSI closely oversees its production process in the U.S. and that he didn't know how the lapses in China occurred. "They wouldn't be a McDonald's vendor if they weren't producing quality products," Adams said. It's unknown how much of OSI's revenue come from China or whether it has similar safety checks there, but the company is already dealing with fallout from the controversy at its Shanghai plant. Yum Brands Inc., which owns KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell, said Wednesday that OSI wasn't a major supplier for its restaurants in any region of the world but that it was terminating all agreements with the company, including in Australia and the U.S. The company, based in Louisville, Kentucky, added that it reserves the right to take legal action against OSI. Over at McDonald's, the impact on the menu was far greater. A spokeswoman, Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem, said the Shanghai plant supplied products including sausage patties, ham patties, beef patties and chicken nuggets. As of Wednesday, McDonald's locations in Shanghai were still unable to serve some items. In the past, OSI has said it is the biggest supplier of protein for McDonald's in the world. McDonald's said in a statement Wednesday that it has been in direct contact with OSI's management and that it would transition to supply its restaurants from other OSI plants in China, including a new one in Henan.
Written on 07/23/2014, 1:57 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — U.S. stock indexes edged mostly higher as traders looked over a mixed batch of corporate earnings. The meager gains were enough to mark another high close for the Standard & Poor's 500 index. The S&P 500 edged up three points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,987. That was two points higher than its last record close reached on July 3. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 26 points, or 0.2 percent, to 17,086. The Nasdaq composite rose 17 points, or 0.4 percent, to 4,473. Boeing fell 2 percent, the most in the Dow, after reporting disappointing revenue. Apple rose 3 percent after reporting big gains in iPhone sales. Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note held steady at 2.47 percent.
Written on 07/23/2014, 1:56 pm by Associated Press
(AP) — Facebook Inc. (FB) on Wednesday reported profit that more than doubled in its second quarter, and topped analysts' expectations. The Menlo Park, California-based company said earnings rose to $788 million, or 30 cents per share, from $331 million, or 13 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago. Earnings, adjusted for stock option expense, were 42 cents per share. The average estimate of analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 33 cents per share. The company said revenue climbed 61 percent to $2.91 billion from $1.81 billion in the same quarter a year ago, and beat Wall Street forecasts. Analysts expected $2.8 billion, according to Zacks. Facebook shares have climbed $16.64, or 30 percent, to $71.29 since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has climbed 7.5 percent. The stock has increased $44.78, or more than doubled, in the last 12 months.
Written on 07/23/2014, 1:23 pm by Chuck Harvey
A decline in farm workers from Mexico has some Fresno-area farmers investing in automated harvesters and planting crops that are less labor intensive, such as almonds. As another alternative, some farmers are simply cutting back on the crops they grow in response to labor shortages and lack of water. Mexican labor availability is on a sharp decline, not just because national immigration reform has stalled, but also because Mexican farm owners are enticing workers to stay home. With fewer farm workers and lack of a new immigration policy, the days of manual labor-intensive farming are dwindling, leading to a new day of robots and harvesting machines. However, industry experts don’t see automation and machines taking over San Joaquin Valley crop harvest operations completely. “You can’t mechanically pick cucumbers,” said Manuel Cunha Jr., president of the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno. He added that most tree fruit, including apricots, is much too sensitive to be picked by machine. But more harvest machines are appearing on farms as worker numbers come up short. Changes in agriculture practices are expected to require a new age of ag education. Currently the U.S. agricultural education system trains farmers and food-system workers in higher-tech systems, but farm workers are primarily left out. A recent study by the University of California, Davis, found that Mexico’s fresh produce sector is expanding, adding workers and paying more in wages. Meanwhile the number of ag workers available in Mexico is falling, down 25 percent from 1995 to 2010, the study reported. So U.S. ag operations will have a tougher time finding workers. This is despite a 20 percent growth in pay for farmworkers in the U.S. since 2007 to nearly $11 an hour. Data from the study shows that while Mexico’s farm labor supply is declining, the demand for labor on Mexican farms is rising. The study, conducted by Professor J. Edward Taylor and PHD student Diane Charlton of the Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics, concludes that U.S. growers must shift to less labor-intensive crop production. It also suggested seeking migrant workers from countries other than Mexico or investing in labor saving agricultural technologies and management practices. It is quite a shift for California farms. Only 2 percent of the state’s hired farmworkers are U.S. born and most are from Mexico. With farmworker numbers also falling in Mexico, the country now depends on farm laborers coming up from Guatemala. The study pointed out that Mexico is in the transitional phase of being both a farm labor exporter and importer. The country had about 8.6 million farmworkers in 1997, but the number has steadily dropped to 6.1 million in 2010. The farm labor supply from rural Mexico is decreasing by 12,800 people annually, which works out to be a 0.15 percent decrease in the Mexican farm labor supply each year working in Mexico or the U.S. The study found that U.S. and Mexican farmers now compete for the dwindling supply of farmworkers. Cunha said he disagrees with the study’s finding that Mexican farms will persuade more of the country’s farm workers to stay at home. He said economic conditions in Mexico took a turn for the worse about two months ago and that will make working there less advantageous. The U.S. also attracts farm workers from Central America, Cunha said. Cunha pointed out that one of the problems the U.S. faces is an aging workforce. He said many of today’s farm workers are approaching age 60. Younger laborers are less attracted to farm work, Cunha said. But in terms of pay, U.S. farms will continue to lead the way, Cunha said. He pointed out that pay for farm workers in Mexico has grown from about $9 a day to about $30 a day. But it is well below what they can earn in the U.S. Still, finding enough farm workers to get through the long season remains difficult. Barry Bedwell, president of the California Grape & Tree Fruit League in Fresno, stressed the need for immigration reform that allows Mexican farmworkers to earn legal status. Bedwell said he doesn’t disagree with the findings of the study. But the current system is not working, he said. He said the H2A visa program is too slow to handle the large numbers of workers needed in the U.S. Bedwell agreed that more mechanism is needed in the farm industry. But farmworkers will also continue to be vital, he said. The UC Davis study found that with fewer workers available, demand will increase for more skilled workers to handle mechanization and more productive labor planning and practices. With rising worker productivity will come a demand for higher wages. That could be good for rural communities, the study determined. As for ways to improve the farm labor supply in the U.S., the study found that legalizing Mexican farm workers is not a good option. Taylor and Charlton pointed out that legalization will increase workers’ economic options in the United States and that makes farm workers more mobile. They said farm work traditionally has been a first stop for new immigrants, who move on to non-farm jobs when they are able. Cunha said he questions that finding. “You have got to have a good guest worker program,” he said. Cunha added that it is important for workers to be able to go home and visit their families in the off-season. “They way it is now, that doesn’t happen,” he said.
Written on 07/23/2014, 11:52 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Increased production of passenger jets helped push up Boeing's profit by 52 percent in the second quarter, topping Wall Street's expectations. The Chicago-based company said net income increased to $1.65 billion, or $2.24 per share, from $1.09 billion, or $1.41 per share, in the same quarter a year ago. Earnings, adjusted for non-recurring costs, came to $2.42 per share. The average estimate of analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $2.02 per share. Boeing Co. (BA) said Wednesday that revenue climbed 1.1 percent to $22.05 billion from $21.82 billion in the same quarter a year ago. Analysts expected $22.32 billion, according to Zacks. Revenue at Boeing's Commercial Airplanes division increased 5 percent to $14.3 billion on higher deliveries — 181 new jets, compared to 169 during the same period last year. Those gains were partially offset by a 5 percent drop in the company's defense, space and security division's revenues to $7.7 billion. The largest problem for that division was fewer deliveries of its C-17 and P-8 military planes, and a pre-tax charge related to its KC-46A tanker program. "While challenges resolving engineering and systems installation issues on our tanker test aircraft are resulting in higher spending to maintain schedule, the issues are well understood and we remain on path to begin flight testing fully provisioned tankers the first part of next year," CEO Jim McNerney said in a statement. Boeing also increased its earnings guidance for the year to $6.85 to $7.05 per share, up from a range of $6.10 to $6.30. Its annual revenue guidance remains the same at $87.5 billion to $90.5 billion. Boeing shares have declined $6.75, or 4.9 percent, to $129.74 since the beginning of the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index has climbed 7.3 percent. However, the stock has climbed $21.95, or 20 percent, in the last 12 months. Shares of the company fell $2.22, or 1.7 percent, to $127.52 in early trading.
Written on 07/23/2014, 11:50 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Fortune 500 packaging company Sealed Air Corp. will consolidate management operations from several states and relocate its New Jersey headquarters to the Charlotte area, where it plans to employ nearly 1,300 jobs in three years. The Elmwood Park, New Jersey-based maker of Bubble Wrap protective cushioning, food packaging and cleaning products will move all or part of its operations in Saddle Brook, New Jersey; Danbury, Connecticut; Racine, Wisconsin; and Duncan and Greenville, South Carolina, into a new headquarters complex in the Charlotte area costing more than $50 million. The company will also relocate a few employees from other locations. The site consolidation was designed to increase collaboration and efficiency, Chief Executive Officer Jerome A. Peribere said. "What better proof that we are able to reimage our company than gather our headquarters, gather our three divisions," said Peribere, who was promoted to the job last year. The executive salaries moving to Charlotte mean the jobs will have an average annual salary of just under $120,000 a year compared to a Mecklenburg County average of $59,046 a year. Sealed Air said in April after posting profits of $72 million for the first quarter of 2014 that it was on track to post full-year earnings at the upper end of the range of its forecast. The company announces second quarter results next Wednesday. "This is going to be the largest Fortune 500 corporate headquarters relocation in Charlotte, North Carolina, history," Gov. Pat McCrory said at a news conference. A North Carolina committee that approves the state's main tax break to attract businesses on Wednesday approved up to $36 million over 12 years if the company meets job and investment targets. The company also is expected to receive at least $5 million more in incentives from state and local governments. The company had narrowed its search to Greenville, South Carolina, and Charlotte before selecting its new headquarters, North Carolina Commerce Department spokeswoman Kim Genardo said. Sealed Air employs about 25,000 people in 175 countries.
Written on 07/23/2014, 11:45 am by Associated Press
(AP) — Delta Air Lines Inc. said Wednesday that second-quarter earnings rose 17 percent, topping analysts' expectations, as passengers flew more miles at higher average fares and fuel spending declined. The results from Delta, the world's third-biggest airline company, produced a strong opening to the industry's results for the busy April-to-June quarter. American and United are scheduled to report second-quarter figures on Thursday, and analysts expect the biggest U.S. carriers to post large profits. Delta said it benefited from gains in corporate contracts and domestic traffic. Like other airlines, Delta has been adding flights cautiously and instead is cramming more passengers on each plane. The average flight was 86.3 percent full, a figure that would have seemed impossible not long ago. By limiting seats or capacity, airlines can keep fares high. CEO Richard Anderson said Delta would continue its "disciplined approach" to adding new flights. "This discipline continues to be a key driver of our success, as we will post record results for 2014," Anderson said on a conference call with analysts. "We see a good demand environment, combined with modest capacity increases that will result in solid (revenue) growth." The average fare per mile climbed 3.8 percent, and Delta also collected more from what it calls merchandising, such as charging extra fees for a roomier seat and for priority boarding. The company's operating margin climbed to 15.1 percent, and it predicted margins of 15 percent to 17 percent in the third quarter. For the third quarter, however, Delta predicted slower growth in so-called unit revenue — the amount of money taken in for every seat flown one mile. That figure is closely watched in the airline business, and it jumped 5.6 percent in the June quarter. Delta predicted an increase of between 2 percent and 4 percent for the July-to-September period, compared with the same months in 2013. J.P. Morgan analyst Jamie Baker said that while the unit-revenue forecast might disappoint some investors, Delta's overall guidance including margin was strong. S&P Capital IQ analyst Jim Corridore slightly raised his estimates of per-share earnings in 2014 and 2015. He praised the company for reducing debt, buying back shares and investing in the fleet, and said it would likely produce better returns than other airlines. For the second quarter, the Atlanta-based company said that net income increased to $801 million, or 94 cents per share, from $685 million, or 80 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, were $1.04 per share. The average estimate of analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of $1.03 per share. The company said revenue climbed 9.4 percent to $10.62 billion from $9.71 billion in the same quarter a year ago, and beat Wall Street forecasts. Analysts expected $10.59 billion, according to Zacks. Fuel spending dropped 6 percent to $2.43 billion, offsetting a 6 percent gain in labor costs to $2.05 billion. In afternoon trading, the shares were up $1.05, or 2.8 percent, to $38.73. Through Tuesday, they had gained 37 percent on the year, while the Standard & Poor's 500 index had increased 7.3 percent.

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