Salinas Valley season should stay free of labor shortages

05/21/2009 06:36:57 PM
Dawn Withers

SALINAS, Calif. — Salinas Valley growers expect to have plenty of labor to staff their harvest crews this year.

Lack of competition from construction and hospitality are two primary reasons, growers said, and the high rate of return among harvest crews each year ensures high-quality cutting and packing.

“This winter labor (in Yuma, Ariz.) was not a problem,” said Steve Church, vice president and director of operations for Church Bros. LLC.

Church said so far for the Salinas season he is seeing more labor than was available previously and does not expect growers in area to have major issues.

H-2A visas are among the most common way Salinas Valley companies hire foreign workers for harvest crews, as well as using labor contractors to find domestic workers. Growers said they are also seeing more workers moving with the harvest between Arizona and California.

“I don’t expect to have any issues this year,” said Tom Nunes Jr., president of The Nunes Co.

Nunes said the company did not have any labor issues during its transition from the desert to Huron, before moving to Salinas.

Michael Boggiatto, president of Boggiatto Produce Inc., said the company relies on labor contractors to staff its crews and estimates that during peak production hundreds of people are working in the fields harvesting its produce, many of whom have worked decades on the same crew.

“For now everything seems OK,” Boggiatto said.

Sammy Duda, vice president, Duda Farm Fresh Foods, said labor so far is adequate and has not seen major shortages in several seasons.

“We think we’ll be OK,” Duda said. Duda said the company used some H-2A workers during the winter season and saw more workers with a visa applying for work.

Duda said there are also fewer jobs to fill for agriculture this season, with acreage on the decline and companies staying conservative with their planting plans.



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