State law does not address the relationship existing between an employer and an employee living in housing facilities provided rent-free by the employer. There are no guidelines defining rights, responsibilities or procedures to be observed when the occupant is no longer an employee.
We will seek and support legislation that addresses not more than a seven-day eviction process for employer provided housing. We support the Michigan Supreme Court decision, (DeBruyn vs. Romero #98727) which defines the rights and procedures to be observed when the occupant is no longer an employee.
We encourage agricultural employers to renovate or demolish their abandoned housing.
The Agricultural Labor Housing Inspection Program is vital to agricultural employers and Michigan’s agricultural economy. The program verifies that agricultural employers have Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) acceptable housing for employees and provides licensing for employers whose housing meets that program’s standards/requirements. This licensing provides protection for both employers and employees. We support that once a camp has been inspected and licensed by the appropriate state agency, any violations created by the occupant should not be held against the labor housing licensee.
Michigan Farm Bureau supports MDARD being the sole inspecting licensor of agricultural housing in Michigan. We support the Agricultural Labor Housing Inspection Program being a fully funded state program that includes pre-occupancy, post-occupancy and complaint-driven inspections, and supplemented by reasonable fees based on licensed occupancy only if necessary. We encourage the state of Michigan and MDARD to provide labor housing licensing protection to all growers who show a good faith effort to maintain their labor housing to MDARD standards.
The state Construction Grant Program, administered by MDARD, was created to assist farmers in construction/renovation of farm labor housing. We will continue to seek higher appropriations for this program, as well as other sources of funding and support. All funds that become available for temporary housing should only be directed to applicants of the Construction Grant Program. We support the revision of the Construction Grant Program to make fund allocations based on the number of licensed housing units. We will oppose any changes in the construction grant laws that reduce the eligibility, application and distribution process. This program has the support of all affected parties, including employees, employers, labor, migrant advocates and government regulating agencies.
The federally funded 514 program, administered through USDA Rural Development, allows producers to build farm labor housing with low interest loans for domestic farm workers. We recommend the State Director of Rural Development allow foreign farm workers with a visa to occupy this housing as allowed under a 514, 515, or 516 program contract.
Overlapping of administrative oversight and inspection of temporary housing requirements presents a fragmented format of temporary housing rules. MFB requests MDARD be the sole vendor of temporary housing law enforcement. We encourage MDARD to continue to publish and provide a publication explaining the current complete licensing and inspection procedures for temporary housing both on and off farm. The U.S. Department of Labor should recognize a current license issued by MDARD as proof the labor camp is acceptable for habitation. We support that once an agriculture labor camp is inspected and licensed by the appropriate state agency and then occupied, the USDOL and/or other agencies may not enter the camp dwellings, which are the homes of the employees, without the employee’s permission and proper advance notification to the owner of the farm. Federal and other state agencies should be in audit positions only and shall refer any apparent violations to MDARD, rather than issuing an immediate penalty.
We encourage legislation to develop uniform housing standards/requirements across state and federal agencies for agricultural workers.