Andy Nelson, Markets Editor
Andy Nelson, Markets Editor

I sure was happy to see the news this week about the progress our wonderful senators and congressmen are making on immigration reform.

Come on, you have to laugh. Or at least try to.

Of course, as soon as the shutdown shuts down, I have nothing but the utmost faith in our wise leaders to refrain from kicking the can down the road for the umpteenth straight year and to actually pass comprehensive immigration reform.

They’ll be so happy to see each other, they’ll forgive and forget and have a great big lawmaking lovefest.

OK, when it comes to black comedy, I’m no Coen brother. I officially apologize and will move on.

Speaking of moving on, what else can the produce industry do?

As usual, there are mixed reports out there about how the inability to pass immigration reform is affecting the harvesting and packing of fresh fruits and vegetables.

This summer some of the Michigan apple grower-shippers I talked to were nervous about finding enough hands to pick this season’s bumper crop.

That’s because many grower-shippers of asparagus, blueberries and other Michigan crops that shipped earlier in the season were having trouble finding enough labor.

With a possible record crop of apples on tap, you could see how shippers were nervous.

As of early October, though, growers are cautiously optimistic.

“We definitely don’t have an abundance of labor, but we don’t have some of the concerns we had earlier,” said Don Armock, president of Sparta, Mich.-based Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc.

Riveridge and other shippers were picking seven days a week and looking forward to some all-time record weekly volumes as all varieties come on line.

But, as I said, the labor question is always a mixed bag.

Half a country away, Michael Boggiatto, president of Salinas, Calif.-based Boggiatto Produce Inc., and other Golden State lettuce and vegetable shippers are keeping their fingers crossed as deals start to transition from the major California growing areas into the California and Arizona deserts.

“We struggled to some degree up here in Salinas, and I’m not sure where we’ll be labor-wise in the desert,” he said.

That said, Boggiatto said he’s glad he’s not a California strawberry shipper.

“I’ve seen signs alongside the road soliciting labor” for work in strawberry fields, Boggiatto said.

“I’ve never seen that before. There will probably be some higher (labor) costs, some drastically higher, and it could be an issue next year for us, too.”

But, Michael, I felt like telling him, ease your mind: next year, Congress will not only be in session, they’ll be writing an immigration bill that will ensure a steady supply of legal, quality labor for the next generation.

After which the president, the majority leader and the speaker will put on their gloves and get to work planting next summer’s vegetables in Michelle Obama’s garden.

Just try to laugh. Just a bit.

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