The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) – Farm Service Agency (FSA) has a potential funding opportunity available for employers under the FLSP grant program. Funds are granted for the following goals and purpose: (1) Drive US economic recovery and safeguard domestic food supply by addressing current labor shortage in agriculture; (2) Reduce irregular migration from Northern Central America through the expansion of regular pathways; and (3) Improve working conditions for all farmworkers. Funding for this program is available through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The program has up to $65 million available with the maximum award at $2 million and the minimum award at $25,000. Awards are based upon the projected number of Full-Time “agriculture” Employees (FTE) and the employee commitment level selected by the applicant. Agricultural employers currently eligible to hire H2A workers are eligible for this funding. The deadline to apply is November 28, 2023. Awardees commit to “Baseline” requirements and choose to apply for employees through the H2A program.
The FLSP has (3) employee commitment levels: Baseline, Silver and Platinum. It also has (7) levels for estimated FTE quantities. Assuming the applicant receives an award, the amount is based upon the commitment level and estimated FTEs. For example, an employer at “baseline” commitment level and 1-10 FTEs will not receive as much as an employer with “Platinum” commitment level and 200+ FTEs. Please see Awards Structure table below.
Table 1 above from the USDA FLSP – Notice of Funding Opportunity information publication.
The ”Baseline” commitment level is the minimum level for all applicants. This commitment level has (4) requirements. Universal Protections and Benefits – all commitments must be applied universally to all the applicant’s agricultural employees, H2A or otherwise. Participation in FLSP Research and Reporting – all awardees must grant access to USDA partners to employer’s workforce for the purpose of research surveys and/or interviews to include two annual agricultural seasons. Participation in Know Your Rights and Resources (KYRR) Training – awardees are required to allow in-person access to all employees to attend KYRR sessions conducted by USDA cooperator partners at the beginning of work contracts. Responsible Recruitment – applicants must indicate their recruitment methods for US based and foreign workers. Any names of recruiters used must be disclosed and recruiters must be registered in the country in which they are recruiting if registration is available. Private recruiters must provide a Recruiter Partner Letter with the recruiter’s written responses to recruiting practices. We believe much of this information is currently in your H2A recruiting packages.
As mentioned above, there are also “Silver” and “Platinum” employee commitment levels for this award. There are (3) sections to these commitment levels: Responsible Recruitment; Pay, Benefits and Working Conditions; and Partnership Agreements. Responsible Recruitment – Silver not required; Platinum required. This is for recruitment via NCA Ministries of labor in Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador. Pay, Benefits and Working Conditions – Silver choose (2), Platinum choose (3) of the following: Overtime Pay; Bonus Payment; Paid Sick Leave; Weekly Housing Maintenance Plan; Collaborative Working Group; Innovative External Partnership. The first (4) are somewhat self-explanatory. A Collaborative Working Group is a group of employees that addresses workplace issues (i.e. workplace safety, transportation safety, housing experience, etc.). The Innovative External Partnership is created to aid in the quality of the life of farmworkers. These partnerships implement plans to support improving health, safety, worker representation or other benefit programs. Partnership Agreements – Silver not required, Platinum choose at least (1) of the following: Participation in Worker-Driven Social Responsibility (WSR) Program; Participation in a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA); and Committing to Neutrality, Access, and Voluntary Recognition (allowing union access). Selections can include existing practices or new adoptions but must exceed state law to qualify for Silver or Platinum bundle.
Applications must be submitted through the federal website “Grants.gov”. USDA recommends that applicants submit applications at least 2 weeks in advance. Employers must have a Unique Entity Identifier (UEI) and a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN). The UEI should be the same number used for completion of the FDA registrations performed every other year. The submittal will contain an application and a Project Abstract describing the FLSP activities including employer plans and practices, employee commitments and partnerships. It will also require a Project Narrative form describing the impact of the operation, description of employer plans and practices, the plan for each employee commitment mentioned above and how this meets the stated (3) goals for this program mentioned in the first paragraph. Application must also have a Recruiter Letter of Commitment for all non-governmental recruiters answering questions about recruiting practices. USDA will offer no-cost technical assistance to help applicants work through application requirements.
Applications will go through an initial qualification screening. If the application meets the requirements, it is reviewed and then scored. Scores will be given for the following topics: Alignment with FLSP Goals and complete Narrative Form; Impact on your Operation and each of the Employee Commitments agreed to by the applicant. If applicant is approved for an award, the FLSP payments are made as the employer achieves certain milestones of participation in FLSP program. For example, 50% of award after successful H2A application and recruitment; 25% completion of FLSP commitments; 25% successful project completion. The applicant must complete the grant activities during a 24-month grant period. USDA expects to announce awards in early 2024.
This article is a brief summary of this program. For more details, please click the following link: FLSP Grant. This is a new program, so there is a lot of uncertainty as to exactly how this program will work. If you have any questions, please contact our office and we will be glad to discuss this program with you in more detail.