In recent years, there has been a surge in awareness and interest around sustainability and land stewardship across California farming communities — and not only among agricultural producers.
The benefits of farmland preservation and regenerative farming practices have captured the interest of a much larger audience that sees that a farmer’s work can benefit the community as much as the farm itself. This is true in Napa County, where growers are increasingly taking action and demonstrating that returns on environmentally conscience investments in the vineyard can be land-smart, economically beneficial and provide ecosystem services to the collective community.
Land restoration efforts around the Napa watershed are a great example of long-term investments grape growers continue to undertake. These show how doing the right thing can result in a multitude of benefits. The river restoration projects in Oakville, Yountville, and now Oak Knoll reaches have proven to be extremely successful. They have improved the Napa River and instream habitats leading to the repopulation of fish and other animals as well as supported the replenishment of aquifers and decreased the risk of flooding — a domino effect of positive change to local ecosystems!
Applies to the Following Counties:
Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and Trinity
Thank you Rosasco Law Group for the following information:
Who must pay this new Prevailing Wage?
H-2A employers are required to pay the highest of the following: the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (“AEWR”), the agreed-upon collective bargaining wage, the Federal minimum wage, the State minimum wage, or the Prevailing Wage. The new California AEWR of $18.65 took effect January 1, 2023. However, the California Employment Development Department (“EDD”) recently submitted a new Domestic Agricultural In-Season Wage Report to the Department of Labor (“DOL”) where they determined the new Prevailing Wage for H-2A agricultural workers engaged in general vineyard work (everything leading up to harvest) is $19.65 for workers in the North Coast wage reporting area which includes: Del Norte, Humboldt, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and Trinity counties. Since the Prevailing Wage is now higher than the AEWR, employers in the previously mentioned counties must now pay $19.65 to their H-2A workers and their domestic workers in corresponding employment.
When do I need to start paying the new Prevailing Wage?
Employers do not technically have to pay this new rate until they have received notice from the Chicago National Processing Center (“NPC”) but the new wage rate is retroactive to the date it went into effect and the new prevailing wage went into effect on November 8, 2022. Instead of waiting for notice, you should start paying this rate immediately because if you don’t, you will have to correct wage statements, this could trigger waiting time penalties if these workers no longer work for you, you’ll have to find these workers, and you must pay workers the difference (regular pay, overtime, bonuses, etc.) if they were paid less than $19.65 from November 8, 2022 to when you received notice of the new rate.
What if I can’t find an employee to give them their check?
Remember, if you can’t find an employee to give them their last paycheck, document the efforts taken to locate them, and send their check to the California Labor Commissioner so they can hold it in their Unpaid Wages Fund.
How long will the new Prevailing wage be in effect?
The new rate took effect on November 8, 2022 and is effective for one year after it is posted on the AOWL website or until it is replaced with an adjusted prevailing wage, whichever comes first. If a prevailing wage was guaranteed on a job order and that prevailing wage expires during the work contract, the employer must continue to guarantee at least the expired prevailing wage rate.
We’ve heard that some employers are fighting this new Prevailing Wage, but relief is not likely to come anytime soon. We do not recommend ignoring the new Prevailing Wage in the hopes it will go away or be invalidated.
How do I find Prevailing Wage rates?
Prevailing wages are posted by the Office of Foreign Labor Certifications (“OFLC”) to the Agricultural Online Wage Library (“AOWL”) website:
Employers should check this website regularly as the prevailing wage is effective immediately once posted.
How are Prevailing Wage rates determined?
The California EDD claims it does wage surveys twice a year, after harvest and then again for pre-harvest or general vineyard work. EDD will likely do the harvest prevailing wage survey in January 2023; it usually takes a month to complete, and the findings would likely be sent to DOL towards the end of February 2023. Once a new Prevailing Wage has been approved by DOL, it will be posted to the AOWL website as stated above. EDD generally only reaches out to employers via email and the reports are based on the information obtained from the employers that respond. If employer participation is low, the numbers could be skewed either high or low. If more employers participate, the numbers may be more accurate. You may need to check your spam folders to find an email from the EDD. Employers who pay unusually high wages may skew the prevailing wages to a higher amount if they respond to EDD’s survey.
I do not directly employ any H-2A workers so I’m in the clear, right?
If you do not directly employ H-2A employees but use a Farm Labor Contractor (“FLC”) who provides you with H-2A workers, this does not guarantee you are in the clear. Growers and FLCs are frequently found to be joint employers with their FLCs; if you are found to be a joint employer with your FLC then this is another way to establish that the H-2A workers are your employees too. This is a fact intensive analysis that must be done on a case-by-case basis, so please contact Rosasco Law Group for a joint employment analysis.
Once joint employment has been established, then employers need to know how to determine which domestic workers fall into the “corresponding employment” category because domestic workers in corresponding employment are entitled to the same wage rates as the H-2A workers (this might also include offering the same benefits offered to H-2A workers such as housing, meals, and/or transportation). This is a complex area of law and answers will depend on the facts and circumstances unique to each employer. Please reach out to Rosasco Law Group for further assistance.
Napa County has begun conducting a countywide Fire Needs Assessment in efforts to create a Fire Master Plan. Napa County’s consultant, AP Triton, has released a survey to provide community members an opportunity for input. The Napa Valley Grapegrowers encourages members to participate. The survey will be open until 5:00 pm on February 8.
The purpose of a Long-Range Master Plan is to evaluate the County Fire Department in relation to the community’s current risks, anticipate community growth, and recommend solutions. The study will review fire department response data, department staffing levels, apparatus and station conditions and locations, and the County’s unique hazards and infrastructure. The study is intended to position the County to address that growth in advance with appropriate resources and infrastructure.
Napa County Fire Needs Assessment
As a result of NVG's wildfire advocacy efforts, in conjunction with industry and community partners, Napa County Fire is conducting a critical Fire Needs Assessment. NVG urges growers to participate in this process, so that the ag community’s needs are incorporated into the Fire Master Plan.
Virtual Town Hall Meeting:
Current and Future Fire Services
Wednesday, January 25 | 6:00pm | Zoom
Event Zoom Link
The community is invited to participate in a virtual Town Hall meeting to discuss Napa County’s Fire Master Plan and determine current and future fire services provided by Napa County. Visit Napa County Fire’s website and read the press release for more information.
All community members are encouraged to participate in a survey, which will be available immediately following the Town Hall: View the Survey
Emergency Relief Program (ERP) Phase 2 Funding
The Farm Service Agency (FSA) has recently released new information regarding the Emergency Relief Program – Phase 2. This program provides financial assistance for losses to crops, trees, bushes, and vines due to qualifying natural disaster events, such as wildfires, hurricanes, floods, excessive heat, freeze, smoke exposure, and qualifying drought that occurred in the 2020 or 2021 calendar year, up to $900,000 for winegrape producers.
Enrollment opens for ERP Phase Two on January 23, 2023 and runs through June 2, 2023. Our grant writing partners at Morrison can help producers navigate the eligibility and application process, call (530) 893-4764 or email email@example.com for assistance.
Emergency Relief Program (ERP) Phase II
Monday, January 23 | 10:00am | Zoom
Event Zoom Link
Webinar ID: 897 1465 9055
Congressman Mike Thompson will also be hosting a webinar with the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Phase 2 of the ERP (previously WHIP+). To let his staff know you're attending, RSVP.
ERP Phase 2 Letter from Congressman Thompson
USDA ERP FAQs
by Carmela Guaglianone, SF Examiner
As sheets of rain and hail pounded parts of San Francisco Tuesday, Michael Baldacci, owner and winemaker at Baldacci Family Vineyards, looked out his window at the renowned Stags Leap District in Napa County and saw his cover crops coming to life.
Although intense storms continue to wreak widespread damage across the state, the wet weather is a boon for winemakers, who have long been waiting for the rain.
“It just feels like we’ve been kind of praying for this,” said Baldacci. “The rains really have been something that we’ve welcomed the last couple of weeks.”
Had this storm surge come later in the season, vintners may have been whistling a different tune. But the grapevines are currently in their winter dormancy, a stage between harvest and bud break when the vine drops its leaves and goes into a protective mode for the winter months.
During dormancy, “all rain is good rain,” said Justin Leigon, viticulturist and board member of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers.
That means there won’t be any direct impact on the grapevines or the wine that they produce, said Megan Bartlett, a plant biologist at the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology. However, wet and humid conditions could increase the chance for fungal disease later in the season.
With extreme rain and storm conditions across the greater Bay Area, we recommend following these best practices during rainy winter months.
Subsurface drain tiles, sump pumps, and other vineyard “dewatering” systems are important and highly impactful farming tools. However, when run all winter long, they can waste electricity and prevent saturating rains from recharging our subsurface aquifers.
Consider turning your sump pump OFF until much closer to bud break. When set to “auto” for the winter season, we risk unnecessarily adding more runoff to our swelling streams, creeks, and the Napa River. Saturated soils generally do not damage vineyard root systems during the dormant season; therefore concerns are minimal for vine impact.
IMPORTANT NOTE: drainage and pumping systems are critical to maintaining roadway access or preventing water from entering wineries and damaging other types of sensitive infrastructure. In these cases, systems need to remain operational.
Benefits to turning off sump pumps include: