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Harvesters Struggle to Recruit Foreign Crews During Pandemic

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BELLE PLAINE, Kan. — Kansas harvester Mike Keimig is growing increasingly anxious about whether the foreign seasonal workers he needs to run his nine combines and drive his grain trucks will arrive in time for the start of the winter wheat harvest, which is just weeks away.

His regular crew mostly consists of farm kids from South Africa who return to work for him every year, but they are stuck overseas. The paperwork for about half of the 20 agricultural worker visas he has applied for remains in limbo at the shuttered U.S. Consulate in Johannesburg.

The closure of embassies and consulates due to the coronavirus pandemic is not the only obstacle to bringing in seasonal workers. Governments have closed their borders. Overseas workers who have visas cannot get on a flight. And once they arrive, they would face weeks of quarantine before they could work.

“It will definitely have a big impact on our finances … if we can’t get help to run our equipment,” Keimig said.

“It would even have an effect on the farmers. Well, maybe they can find somebody besides us to do it, I don’t know?” he said. “But I think it would be a little tough because there are a lot of us in the same situation.”

Harvester crews typically traverse the nation with their combines and grain trucks taking on work where the crops are ripening. They usually work the same farms every season, saving the farmers the cost of investing in harvester equipment.

About 30% of U.S. harvest operations use foreign workers on their crews, according to Mandi Sieren, operations manager for industry trade group U.S. Custom Harvesters Inc.

Temporary agricultural worker H-2A visas have largely been spared from immigration rollbacks because agriculture is an essential industry, but the workers can’t travel to the U.S. because of the restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Sieren said.

As for hiring locally, harvesters “would absolutely love to hire Americans but there are not very many Americans who would leave home for six to nine months at a time,” she said.

As many as half of the workers who harvest U.S. wheat and other grain crops are seasonal foreign workers, said Ryan Haffner, a Kansas harvester and board member for U.S. Custom Harvesters.

“We are always looking for American workers. I mean, that is a constant search,” Haffner said. But many Americans are “disconnected from agriculture” and lack interest or the skills required to work in farming.

“There are more people overseas, really, that have an interest and still a working knowledge of agriculture,” he said.

Modern harvesting machines are computerized and sophisticated, so it’s not easy for the city-dwelling unemployed to just pick up, adapt and learn to operate them, Haffner said.

Workers transplant strawberries in a field in Wyoming, Del., in 2019.

Workers transplant strawberries in a field in Wyoming, Del., in 2019. (Edwin Remsberg/VWPics via Associated Press)

Typically, a third of Haffner’s crew of up to 20 workers is American, while the rest come from South Africa, Europe and South America. He has the agricultural worker visas for his foreign workers for this harvest season, but was only able to get a few of them into the U.S. before coronavirus restrictions effectively shut the others out.

The harvest season begins in mid-May in north-central Texas, before moving into Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, Montana and North Dakota. In the summer, they cut mostly wheat. In early fall, they harvest peas, canola, soybeans, grain sorghum and corn. Haffner can’t afford to miss a season.

“I have got $5 million worth of equipment — I can’t not be there,” Haffner said. “So we are going to be there. We are going to get to our customers. It is just going to be much more difficult than usual. We intend to get through it.”

Some harvesters are turning to relatives and friends to work for a few weeks or more until the foreign workers can arrive. Some have been able to hire Americans for the whole season. Others are trying to do as much as they can themselves.

Don Kotapish, a 72-year-old farmer who also does a bit of cutting for others on the side, usually brings in a couple of workers from South Africa to help him on his 6,500-acre property in Blue Rapids, Kan. He said he has been working from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. or later every day because he hasn’t been able to hire help.

“Not only are we short on help, but we aren’t getting anything for our products,” Kotapish said. “The cattleman and the grain farmers are all in the same situation. That adds more stress.”

Texas harvester Shorty Kulhanek usually hires fewer than five seasonal workers, and he has been able to pick up some workers from Oklahoma, Kansas, Wisconsin and Washington this season. He said it was easier to find Americans to join his crew because so many people are out of work.

Furthermore, Kulhanek’s applications for seasonal agricultural worker visas have yet to be approved, and he was told that might not happen until July 15.

“I can’t wait that long,” he said. “I have to proceed with what I can get.”

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Source: https://www.ttnews.com/articles/harvesters-struggle-recruit-foreign-crews-during-pandemic

Automotive

Shelby American announces Mustang Shelby GT500SE with over 800 horsepower, plus GT350SE limited edition variants

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Here’s your chance to Shelby your Shelby. Shelby American just announced Carroll Shelby Signature Edition versions of the Shelby GT500, Shelby GT350 and Shelby GT350R. They include the Shelby GT500SE, Shelby GT350SE and Shelby GT350RSE. OK, now that we’ve broken the record for most uses of the word “Shelby” in a paragraph, we’ll dial it back a notch.

We’ll kick it off with the supercharged GT500SE. Shelby takes the 760-horsepower 5.2-liter supercharged V8 and fits a new supercharger pulley that ups horsepower to “800-plus.” Shelby doesn’t provide any additional detail besides stating that it requires 93 octane fuel to make that power. A high-volume intercooler and heat exchanger are fitted to handle any excess heat, and a new vented carbon fiber hood is added, too, which weighs 30 pounds less than the factory piece. Suspension upgrades include more aggressive springs, sway bars (front and back), caster camber plates, forged aluminum wheels, extended and hardened wheel studs and a total recalibration. It comes standard with Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tires, but you can add Pilot Sports Cup 2s. Also available optionally is a rear seat delete with harness bar, a widebody kit and painted stripes. Both the interior and exterior are sprinkled with Shelby badging and extra niceties. There will only be 100 per model year of the GT500, and all will receive their own plaque with serial numbers.

Moving on, we come to the Shelby GT350SE and R variants. Shelby provided photos of an R, but you can apply the upgrades to either Mustang. There’s no extra power on tap for the naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V8 in the GT350SE, but Shelby does add suspension. Similar to the GT500SE, the GT350SE has more aggressive springs, front and rear sway bars, forged wheels and caster camber plates. One note on the wheels: If your Mustang is already fitted with the factory carbon fiber wheels, it’s hard to see these aluminum wheels being an upgrade. 

Its appearance add ons are similar to the GT500SE, too. You get additional Carroll Shelby badging everywhere, new leather seat covers and the same plaque treatment. Shelby plans on limiting the GT350SE to 100 units from each model year going back to the 2015 launch. That means you can send your old Shelby here and have it be retroactively double Shelby-fied. 

The conversions aren’t cheap, though. A Shelby GT500SE is another $29,995 on top of the base car. Upgrading the GT350 to a GT350SE is much cheaper at $9,995. Neither of those prices include transportation to and from Shelby American in Las Vegas. We’d suggest getting in touch with the company if you want to spring for one of these limited edition upgrades.

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Source: https://www.autoblog.com/2020/07/31/shelby-gt500se-gt350se-limited-edition-versions-debut/

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Driving the Honda Ridgeline and marveling at Tesla | Autoblog Podcast #638

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In this week’s Autoblog Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore is joined by Consumer Editor Jeremy Korzeniewski and Associate Editor Byron Hurd. They start off talking about why more people should buy the Honda Ridgeline, because it’s a pretty darned good truck. Next, Byron talks about some Hyundais. He shares his experiences with the 2020 Sonata Hybrid and talks briefly about the prototype 2021 Elantra currently occupying his driveway. Up next, Jeremy shares his feelings about the BMW X1 crossover he spent some time with, prompting the gang to mull over the notion of BMW’s modern interpretation of “Ultimate Driving Machine.” After that, Byron talks about towing his 1990 Mazda Miata with the 2020 Infiniti QX80, and then they wrap up with some discussion of the mystery surrounding the Ford Maverick and some comments on the current state of Tesla.

Autoblog Podcast #638

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Source: https://www.autoblog.com/2020/07/31/driving-the-honda-ridgeline-and-marveling-at-tesla-autoblog-podcast-638/

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Automotive

Traveling Around Europe? Don’t Use Dashcams In These Countries

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As petrolheads, whenever we think of dashcams we picture a Lada racing down Russian streets at Mach 10, or a highway accident where a motorist narrowly avoids a crash. While the internet is oversaturated with these types of videos, restrictions to using them often come as an afterthought. Skoda took a deep dive to figure out dashcam rules and regulations worldwide.

Luckily here in North America, we aren’t limited too much with recording our journeys behind the wheel. In Canada, roads are treated as public space making them fair game; meanwhile, for us in the States, the first-amendment means we can record as we like. While documenting our travel is fair game, road users must still be mindful of the state’s rules and regulations. This isn’t a big worry as the main issues of debate are audio recording and blocking the driver’s field of vision.

Skoda Dash Cam Cover 01

Aside from researching dashcam use, Skoda will optimize some of its latest vehicles for using them. From 2021 onwards, the Superb, Kodiaq, Karoq, Scala, and Kamiq models will receive USB-C connectors in common places where cameras are placed. These connectors work to clean up the usual mess of dashcam wires and cables.

While restrictions vary significantly between countries we’re sure you noticed Russia and its seemingly wild set of regulations. It’s no surprise, given the steady stream of dashcam videos we see on social media from the country.

Although Russia is the only country where dashcams are completely unrestricted, there are others that allow them with some red tape involved. Certain areas enforce rules where the driver’s sightline must not be obstructed, and other road user’s faces and license plates need to be blurred before publishing footage.

While dashcams are a great tool in the unfortunate event of an accident, it’s still important to ensure the legality of your setup.

Source: https://www.motor1.com/news/436925/dash-cam-regulations-europe-skoda/?utm_source=RSS&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=RSS-category-technology

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