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Workforce Development FAQs

Established in 2018, the FARM Workforce Development (WFD) program area encourages the adoption of human resources (HR) and safety best practices. It focuses on developing management processes and procedures to promote positive HR and safety outcomes on dairies. FARM WFD offers free producer resources, including an HR Manual and Safety Manual. In 2020, the program launched a voluntary second party evaluation tool for use by FARM Participants. Human resources and safety management will look different depending on the unique circumstances of the individual dairy. By using information from and referencing the FARM HR and Safety Manuals, HR Templates, and other FARM resources, the evaluation tool supports dairy producers and managers in their journeys of continuous improvement.

The Workforce Development Program is formally revised every three years.

The FARM Workforce Development Task Force is composed of farmers, co-op and processor staff, and other subject matter experts from across the country. They guide program development and strategic direction.

The NMPF Executive Committee reviews recommendations from the Task Force for adjustments to the FARM Workforce Development program area. Such recommendations are subject to approval from the NMPF Board of Directors.

FARM also received direct feedback from producers through a second party evaluation pilot program conducted in the winter of 2019 and 2020. Through this pilot, FARM Participants implemented the evaluation tool with a total of 45 dairy farms and provided direct feedback on the tool and implementation. The FARM Program also held a 45-day public comment period from December 6th, 2019 through January 20th, 2020 in order to solicit feedback from a wide range of dairy stakeholders.

The Workforce Development evaluation tool is not a set of standards – it is a best practice assessment guide. The goals of the evaluation tool are to help farms:

  • learn about HR and safety management best practices
  • identify which practices might be useful for their farm
  • track improvement over time

By performing on-farm evaluations, the industry can also provide important assurances to supply chain customers: dairy buyers and retailers. Dairy buyers and retailers are interested in on-farm labor practices in dairy. The FARM program is being proactive by offering a Second party evaluation tool that will serve as the industry’s voice to communicate that dairy is passionate about providing safe and thriving work environments for employees and family members. The FARM program also has regular conversations with dairy customers to share dairy’s labor story and encourage wide recognition of FARM Workforce Development.

No. The FARM WFD Version 1.0 evaluation focuses on voluntary best practices. While these practices are beneficial for HR and safety outcomes, there is no penalty for failing to adopt any of the best practices.

Like the entire FARM Program, FARM WFD is size and facility neutral. However, HR and safety best practices may look different for operations with few or no hired employees. Recognizing that reality, FARM is developing a Version 1.1 of the evaluation tool that offers additional guidance for smaller dairies.

Legal compliance is an important baseline for business operations. FARM WFD provides information about relevant laws and regulations through federal and state fact sheets that are updated annually. Additionally, the Safety and HR Manuals go in-depth on certain compliance topics. However, FARM WFD’s focus is on promoting best practices that will help U.S. dairy farms become employers of choice. Verifying legal compliance is the duty of the proper legal and regulatory agencies. The FARM WFD second party evaluation does not verify legal and regulatory compliance. However, because state laws and regulations vary, it is possible that some of the best practices contained in the evaluation tool are legal requirements in certain states.

Investing in the farm’s workforce improves overall performance, productivity and engagement. Effective HR and safety programs help the farm meet legal obligations with regard to employment-related laws, as well as maintain a positive, safe and fair work environment. High-quality HR and safety management helps farms go above and beyond the legal minimum, to become an employer of choice and attract and retain employees. Moreover, implementing HR and safety best practices may help a farm reduce operating costs, such as workers’ comp premium rates and the costs associated with high employee turnover.

The FARM WFD evaluation tool was designed so that each question relates back to resources and / or templates to assist producers in striving towards continuous improvement.

FARM’s network of second party evaluators implements the evaluation tool on behalf of FARM Participants. Second party evaluators complete and pass a training program, which will be launched in early 2021.

An evaluator goes out to the farm and reviews each human resource and safety best practice from the evaluation tool with the dairy owner or manager. The evaluation tool explains why each best practice is valuable and how a farm could go about implementing the practice on their operation. It points to resources, such as templates, that can assist with next steps.

During an Evaluation A Certified Second Party Evaluation will:

Observe

Visually inspect an area; e.g. the location of payroll records, first-aid kits, the employee restroom, etc.

Review

Read through a given document

Interview

  • Ask the farm management and employees about a certain policy or practice
  • The evaluator may ask permission to interview one of your employees. If no one is available and/or the evaluator cannot communicate easily in a common language with the employee, the interview will not be conducted.

In Version 1.0 of FARM Workforce Development, FARM Participants determine how many and which facilities to engage in the FARM WFD second party evaluation. Participating facilities may undergo a second-party evaluation at a frequency determined in collaboration with the FARM Program participant (the co-op or processor through which the farm is participating). Evaluations must be scheduled in advance and are not to be conducted unannounced.

  • Respond to evaluation questions honestly
  • Provide documents that the evaluator requests to review to the best of the farm’s ability
  • Show evaluators requested locations or items for evaluator to complete observations

All dairy facilities have access to review their completed evaluations within the password-secured FARM database. Facility representatives in need of an account for the FARM database should reach out to their FARM second party evaluator.

The FARM Program values feedback from the dairy community as it influences future standards and programmatic processes. After participating in a second party evaluation , we encourage all dairy producers and managers to complete a feedback form.

Stakeholders and subject matter experts from the entire dairy value chain worked together to create educational materials for U.S. dairy owners and managers. The suite of educational materials helps farmers who want basic human resources and safety tools, enabling farm owners to increase employee engagement. Those resources can be viewed here.