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.
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