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3 Puerto Rico agricultural businesses to split $800K from USDA

The department awarded a combined $50 million.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it is awarding $50 million to 141 awardees in 40 states and Puerto Rico through the Farm Labor Stabilization and Protection Pilot Program (FLSP Program). This includes $800,000 to three local operations in Puerto Rico.

The awards aim to improve the resiliency of the U.S. food supply chain by addressing agriculture labor challenges and instability, strengthening protections for farmworkers and expanding legal pathways for labor migration, the agency stated.

The three companies selected in Puerto Rico are Coquí Global Enterprises LLC ($400,000), Jempl Vetiver LLC ($200,000), and MS Produce LLC ($200,000).

With the funds, Coquí Global Enterprises LLC, an organic agriculture producer, plans to hire 20 farm workers by providing new housing facilities, transportation and monthly performance bonuses in addition to base compensation.

“Coquí Global has faced major challenges with securing labor to meet its operational needs and has been unsuccessful in recruiting domestic farm workers due to increased labor shortages in Puerto Rico and the continental United States,” it stated in its proposal to the USDA.

The company will also offer opportunities to learn regenerative farming techniques, in collaboration with the 2020 Farmers’ Cooperative of Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) farmers, and local nonprofit PROCAFE.

JEMPL Vetiver will use FLSP funds to implement a mobile app for tracking schedules, timekeeping and live communication with employees. The funding will also assist with travel allowances, pay scales, bonuses, a transparent complaint reporting system, access to cold and filtered water, shaded areas for workers, a work/rest plan, a medical evacuation plan, daily meals, a no-retaliation policy, an annual uniform stipend, and routine After Action Reviews to empower employees to be part of the solution of the desired outcome, it told the federal agency in its proposal.

MS Produce LLC will use its award to achieve long worker tenure by offering benefits such as production bonuses, payment of sick days, responsible hiring practices, and partnering with organizations that protect worker rights. 

“Ultimately, MS Produce is attempting to address the difficult challenges of hiring agricultural employees in Puerto Rico, and with the support of their FLSP award will be able to bring on 22 new hires,” it stated.

The USDA announced the FLSP Program in September 2023, in coordination with other federal agencies, to help address workforce needs in agriculture, promote a safe and healthy work environment, and support lawful migration pathways for workers, including expansion of labor pathways through the H-2A visa program. 

The FLSP was designed with input from immigration, labor, and agricultural stakeholders, informed by the experiences of farmworkers and farmers themselves, the agency stated.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 30 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.
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