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H-2B Labor Discussions Take Center Stage at North Carolina Fair Convention


By Mary Weber

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Lloyd Moody, President of the North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs, had some time to reflect on this year's convention after it ended on January 7th, 2018. Recently, the President's term was extended to two years so Moody is now heading into his second year in the position. When asked about his focus for the 2018 convention programming, Moody said "We try to keep our workshops and meetings topical. A big topic this year is H-2B labor and legislation." This year's convention theme was "Times Are Changing."

Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina was one of the keynote speakers at the convention. According to Moody, "Tillis is all aboard in supporting H-2B labor in our industry." Summarizing Tillis' speech, Moody says that Tillis believes changing H-2B legislation will be a two step process. The first step involves an interim solution which Tillis believes could happen as early as January 18th (when the Senate reconvenes). The second step is a permanent solution which will likely take place sometime down the road once Senators like Tillis, who support new H-2B legislation, have the chance to state their case and get other Senators on board. 

Moody says that everyone at Tillis' speech felt somewhat optimistic but still felt a little cautious about what is to come. "We couldn't have had a more appropriate speaker than someone directly involved in this problem as Tillis is," says Moody. The other keynote speaker at this year's convention was Bob Johnson, President of the OABA. Johnson was able to give a general OABA update and also speak about what the organization is doing to help change H-2B legislation in the industry's favor. "We had two, pertinent, high-caliber speakers for our convention and we are very proud of that," says Moody. 

Trade show numbers at this year's convention were pretty consistent with last year's; about 30 people/companies exhibited at the trade show. Although numbers have stayed the same from last year, Moody has noticed that they've definitely dwindled over time. "We used to have 50 or so exhibitors in year's past. I think the numbers have gone down some because there are always conflicts between different state associations' conventions," says Moody. In addition to trade show space, different performers could sign up for a showcase slot; performances would occur at the conclusion of meetings or during meals in the ballroom. There were about 13 showcase performances during this year's convention. 

Throughout the convention, several awards were given out to commend fairs on their hard work during the year. At the North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs Convention, each award is given to a fair in each of their three categories which are based on size. Category one includes fairs with up to 15,000 people, category two is fairs with 15,0001-35,000 people, and category three includes fairs with over 35,000 people. This year, a certificate of appreciation for the "Got to be NC" Agricultural Awards was handed out. Additionally, certain fairs received a Media Award, Youth & Agriculture Awards, Agriculture Awards, Innovative Ideas Awards, and Image Awards. 

Attendance at this year's convention was about a one third increase from the previous year's according to Moody. Last year there was a big snow storm in North Carolina leading up to the convention; they almost had to cancel it. Moody says it was difficult for people to make it there so they saw a bit of an attendance dip. Moody estimates there were about 300 people in attendance last year and 400 in attendance this year. 

While H-2B was the first topic of priority for the convention, Moody says they also wanted to focus on ride inspection regulations. Last August, they learned that North Carolina inspectors issued a new rule that all North Carolina rides have to pass a "non-destructive" ride inspection test. The new regulation was announced two weeks before the start of North Carolina's peak fair season. According to Moody, some people were worried that their fairs wouldn't be able to open. 

When the new regulation was announced, the North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs worked with Bob Johnson and the OABA to set up a meeting with the North Carolina Department of Labor inspections Department in Hickory, NC. Moody says about 40 people from all over the country came to the meeting to better understand the new ride regulations. Moody dubbed the meeting "High Noon at Hickory." After the meeting, it worked out that not one fair did not open due to not passing the non-destructive testing. 

At this year's convention, there was a Carnival Operations/NC Department of Labor Meeting for  people to attend, moderated by Tommy Petty from the North Carolina Department of Labor. Moody felt that his meeting gave convention attendees the opportunity to ask questions about regulations and get more clarification. However, at the meeting it was announced that the Department of Labor expects to roll out new regulations within the next 30 days (from the end of the convention). "People may have left that meeting feeling a little jittery," says Moody. 

Other workshops at this year's convention included: "What is E-verify and how to E-verify workers and volunteers at your fair," "Group and online sales," "Awards program update and question and answer session," "Know your insurance coverage. Don't be surprised, are you really covered?" "Support your future," "Staying relevant," "Adapting to change. What is social media? Is social media good for my fair?" And  "Exhibits & displays." 

During the convention, the board holds fundraisers in the form of a Chinese auction, a golf cart raffle, and a 5/50 raffle. Moody says that it was their first time doing a Chinese auction but it seemed to go well. All three fundraisers were successful; the money they raise primarily goes toward scholarships. 

On Sunday morning, the board met to critique the convention. "Overall we felt it went very well, a few little glitches like at any convention," says Moody. There was positive feedback from convention attendees about the placement of the trade show booths and the topical speeches about H-2B and inspection regulations. 

Moody felt that everybody went to the more relevant talks and that a goal for 2019 is to make sure topics are pertinent. "We are always concerned that we meet the needs of our constituent members. I think we nearly hit the main issues at the convention. We were able to give some relief on certain issues but people might have left with some anxiety. Either way, at least we have the information," says Moody. 

The North Carolina Association of Agricultural Fairs is made up of ten board members. President: Lloyd Moody, Vice President: Matt Buchanan, Past President: Johnny Love, Debbie Carter, Don Deal, Allen Faircloth, Gary Price, Milton Ingram, Ronnie Turner (represents ride companies), and Bobby Jenks (represents concessionaires). Additionally Bonnie Holloman serves as the Executive Secretary and Cathy Horton is Bonnie's assistant. 

The board is working on securing dates for the 2019 convention but nothing is set in stone yet. Moody says that they want to find dates that do not conflict with other state association meetings if at all possible. 

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