Anderson said apples are now in the forefront of labor demand, with harvest just beginning.
“Many have indicated their (labor) camps are not full,” he said.
Apple growers in Washington state have also reported labor shortages, Gasperini said.
Apart from labor shortages, Gasperini said that immigration enforcement by federal officials has been tough on growers this year.
What’s more, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have seemed to target farmers and agricultural producers who have been vocal about the need for farm labor reform.
For example, Gasperini said a dairy farmer who was quoted in a New York Times story about the need for immigration reform and the prevalence of foreign workers and was then audited by ICE officials about two weeks later.
Agricultural leaders have told administration officials and members of Congress they feel targeted for speaking up for immigration reform.
“(They) keep telling us that we need to speak up and stand up and tell why this is important for agriculture, but every time somebody does ICE shows up and audits them and they lose their workers,” Gasperini said.
During a recent meeting, Gasperini said White House staff told growers to stand up for immigration reform.
“One of my members said, ‘You know what, we can’t afford to stand up because people are almost getting put out of business because they stand up,’”
More and more large fresh produce growers are planting a greater percentage of row crops like corn and soybeans in their operations in order to avoid the need for labor, Gasperini said.
Growers want the administration to lower the priority for enforcement for growers, particularly during the harvest season.
Anderson said some Michigan growers who have used the H-2A guest worker program in the past have pulled out of specialty crop production entirely because of legal actions initiated after they used the program.