He said some growers might walk away from some lower-value late season varieties — notably braeburn — in deference to higher value late season varieties such as fuji, Pacific Rose and Pink Ladies.
Steensma said apple market conditions were good in early November, but he said it was possible that prices for regular storage fruit could come under pressure if growers are forced to put more fruit in short-term storage than usual.
With the current crisis signalling even deeper troubles ahead, Steensma said the industry will have to “go back to the drawing board” on finding enough labor in future years. “Our state government has a vested interest in us, but the national government, they don’t really care.”Grim said Washington growers of every size are concerned about the future of labor availability.
“We have been asking for, crying for, praying for a fix to carry of the fact that these are seasonal jobs that the majority of people in this country do not want,” Grim said. “We would like to find a guest worker system that would allow us to bring those workers into the country to take these jobs and then go back home,” he said. The alternative, he said, is that orchards will go out of business, he said. “We need to this fix and it isn’t going to get fix unless you want to crater this industry for reasons of lack of workers to get it picked, packed and processed.
If legal farm workers aren’t found, the Washington tree fruit industry could be in trouble, said Dan Fazio, owner of the Washington Farm Labor Association, Lacey, Wash. “I’m on the record predicting that 50% of the smaller orchards will be torn out in the next ten years,” he said.
Frank Gasperini, executive vice president of the Washington, D.C.-based National Council of Agricultural employers, said the troubles in Washington state aren’t unique.
with low unemployment in Mexico and slowing migration, all of U.S. agriculture will be challenged to find workers in the next five to ten years, he said. “In the end, we have to find a way to convince Congress to make the workers doing the work now legal, or we are in serious trouble.”