Labor pains intensify - The Packer

Labor pains intensify

11/04/2011 10:04:00 AM
The Packer Editorial Board

Given recent increasing shortages of agricultural workers in key U.S. growing regions, it is imperative that the Obama administration and both parties of Congress make positive steps to secure the viability of labor-intensive agriculture in the U.S.
In California and Arizona, 62% of those responding to a Western Growers survey conducted in late September indicated finding workers is a challenge.
In the Pacific Northwest, labor shortages were noted in early November, with growers reporting crews were short 15% or more of needed pickers.
As members of Congress well know, the industry has been engaged in, for more than a decade, efforts to engage lawmakers to find a solution to the lack of a legal work force. As rhetoric heats up regarding mandatory E-Verify and other enforcement measures, needed workers are becoming scarce.
With more and more indications growers are losing confidence in the ability of the federal government to help them solve this problem, we may see more U.S. growers walk away from fruit and vegetable production and marketing. 
That is not a result of alarmist growers crying “wolf.” The wolf is at the door.
Produce growers find themselves in an increasingly unsustainable position where they continue to depend on illegal immigrant labor.
If Congress and President Obama continue to be unwilling and unable to craft a viable guest worker plan, more fruit and vegetable production will move outside the U.S. 
The country can ill afford another economic hit, one that would be felt not just by growers, but also by the businesses that service them, communities that depend on the fruit and vegetable economy, and ultimately by all consumers.
Did The Packer get it right? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.

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California  |  November, 04, 2011 at 12:33 PM

Are the legal and unemployed people in California pursuing these jobs in agriculture? Maybe the word needs to get out that jobs are available in agriculture. I know a lot people who are unemployed in California may not live close to the growing regions. However isn't there some way to transport and temporarily house a legal california resident to the growing regions? Desperate times call for desperate measures. If I was out of work I would be willing to catch a bus once a week, live in some sort of barracks for housing and then travel back to my family. A good strawberry harvester can earn upwards of $700 - $1000 per week no? Also, working leads to other opportunities within the company. Collecting an unemployment check just gives you money and not much.

Florida  |  November, 07, 2011 at 08:32 AM

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california  |  November, 07, 2011 at 03:48 PM

I agree with John. Our government has made it so easy for people to take advantage of our social services that it has become "better" to stay home and draw unemployment or disability benefits than to field work. I know of no middle class unemployed, middle class Ameican that would cut lettuce or pack berries. I say take the people in our state prisons and teach them how to cut produce. We aupport them anyway and they all need a little fresh air and sunshine.

Faylene Whitaker    
Climax, NC  |  November, 08, 2011 at 03:47 PM

We use H2A workers so this summer with unemployment being so high in our area we expected to have several local workers apply for jobs on our farm this summer working in tobacco or picking tomatoes. Employment commission sent us one worker this summer and he lasted for two weeks. Yes this is hard work but we have been doing it for 38 years. So please tell me where are all these workers we need on our farms to do the manual labor.

Raleigh, NC  |  November, 15, 2011 at 12:47 PM

There is clearly a disconnect when unemployment benefits are supporting able-bodied Americans who will not do certain jobs. This, to me, is an outgrowth of a couple of generations worth of kids being told that everyone should go to college so that they don't have to do manual labor. To be clear, no one should receive unemployment when there are agriculture jobs going undone. And now a word about the growers: please stop saying "these are jobs that Americans won't do ...", unless you are willing to complete the sentence, " ... at the wages we want to pay.". Your position sounds for all the world like you do not want a minor issue like illegal immigration and border security get in the way of your making a healthy profit.

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