Western Growers report underscores lack of labor

11/07/2011 10:48:00 AM
Tom Karst

Related content: Late apple harvest, worker shortage stresses growers.

A majority of California and Arizona growers polled in late September reported labor shortages, according to a labor survey by Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers.

Seventy-three completed surveys were analyzed, and 62% of those responding (45 growers) indicated they had experienced challenges in finding workers this year, according to Western Growers.

“It’s difficult to know why the workers who have traditionally been here aren’t coming to the fields now,” said Jason Resnick, general counsel for Western Growers.

An improving economy in Mexico, combined with a weaker economy in the U.S., could be reducing the flow of immigrant workers. What’s more, Resnick said the Obama administration has deported 400,000 illegal immigrants since coming into office, which is more than twice as many as President George W. Bush deported in eight years.

“Whether that means part of our workforce has been deported is hard to know, but certainly words gets around and it has to have a chilling effect.”

The survey found that farm labor positions needed by growers ranged in length from one month to a year or more, with 72% of those who responded indicating they need employees for six months or more.

The survey covered farms in 19 counties, with Santa Barbara having the most responses followed by Monterey, Ventura, Fresno and San Luis Obispo counties.

Thirty-eight growers provided economic estimates of losses caused by labor shortages. Seven said they did not anticipate any losses; eight growers said they anticipated losses between $40,000 and $100,000. Thirteen predicted losses between $101,000 and $500,000 and two respondents indicated losses could be more than $1 million.

Resnick said Western Growers and others lobbied many years for the AgJobs program, which included revisions to the guest worker program and a pathway to citizenship for workers already in agriculture. However, the Republican Party opposes the pathway to citizenship in the AgJobs bill, he said.

Resnick said only a few California growers currently use the existing H-2A program because of the program is burdensome, expensive and prone to delays. “We are going to need to see significant changes to a temporary agricultural worker program before we start to see growers using the government program.”


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Doug    
Raleigh NC  |  November, 07, 2011 at 03:19 PM

It would be interesting to find out what the unemployment rate is in the counties mentioned. Staggering to think that in a nation suffering its worst unemploment in decades that there are jobs going begging. Can the unemployed still get checks if there are agriculture jobs that they refuse to do?

Vivienne    
Gainesville, GA  |  November, 07, 2011 at 07:32 PM

It occurs to me that something is amiss. A job is a job when it comes to feeding your family and supporting yourself in THIS economy!

Randy    
Oregon  |  November, 08, 2011 at 12:50 PM

Limit unemployment checks to six months, no amensty for illegals, no more birthright citizenship, implement a guest worker program footed by the employer and force all workers to return home after a maximum two-year contract. No bringing of families to the USA.

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