Farm labor crisis: Phony or real? - The Packer

Farm labor crisis: Phony or real?

09/03/2012 09:18:00 AM
Tom Karst

National Editor Tom KarstIs the "farm labor crisis" phony? CNBC had recent coverage called "More data on the phony farm labor crisis."

Why was the farm labor crisis phony? The author surmises that because profits are up for farmers in many states, the concern about farm labor is overblown.

As one reader comment to that article states, that is a clumsy, if tempting, conclusion to make. You cannot exclusively equate profits  or lack thereof with farm labor. But you get the sense that the consumer media is tiring of the repeated warning signals about farm labor shortages. The author, John Carney, writes:

Every summer, newspapers around the country roll out stories of a labor shortage on farms. The fruit is going to rot in the orchards, crops will go unpicked, agricultural communities will be devastated unless something is done, the stories predict.


His point, I guess, is that there hasn't been enough carnage of "rotting crops"  to justify all the alarm over the farm labor shortage.

Ironically, CNBC also had coverage that called the California labor availability for farmers the worst in years.

So I ask readers to rate the farm labor supply.  What it is like in 2012?

A question for the Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group is this:

Labor available for picking fruits and vegetables this year has been ...

    Extremely tight

    Moderately tight

    About equal to demand

    Slight surplus

    Much more than demand


How do you rate the farm labor crisis - phony or all too real?

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Darwin Reich    
Salinas, CA  |  September, 04, 2012 at 10:19 PM

Tom, the labor shortage is all to real. There are cases of crop harvest being behind schedule and affecting the quality and cost of harvest. There is competition between growers and crops for a limited pool of available labor. The result has been an increase in harvest cost and decline in pack quality. This is real! and likely to get worse if changes are not made to increase the availability of the migrant workers whom are willing to provide the labor needed by our industry. If we continue to see this trend, production will be forced out of the USA and into those countries that have the labor resources.

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