More testimony from the Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security hearing on "Protecting America's harvest" from Friday. This is testimony from Phil Glaize of Glaize Orchards.
Web site www.usapple.org
8233 Old Courthouse Road, Suite 200 ? Vienna, VA 22182-3816 USA
Protecting America’s Harvest
Committee on Judiciary
Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security
U.S. House of Representatives
September 24, 2010
Good Morning Chairwoman Lofgren, Ranking Member King, and distinguished members of the Committee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today on behalf of the U.S. Apple Association and the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform (ACIR). My name is Phil Glaize and I am a third generation fruit farmer with operations in Shenandoah and Frederick Counties Virginia.
Today, Glaize Orchards operates 650 acres of orchard, along with a packing house and cold storage. We are a medium sized operation for our industry. We have 15 full time employees and employ anywhere from 15 to 80 seasonal employees depending upon the time of year. In addition, we must add 95 harvest workers to this workforce for the months of September and October. When my grandfather founded the business in 1921 things looked a lot different in Winchester.
There were more farms, fewer people, and no pressure from developers. Over the years, the invention of dwarf trees, bulk bins, and packing house automation have allowed us to work more efficiently, but nothing has changed the fundamental fact that apples still need to be manually pruned, and hand-picked.
The work is physically demanding and it is temporary, but it is also highly skilled. If you don’t pick each apple correctly, the fruit can become bruised, damaged and less marketable. You can also harm the tree’s productivity for the following season, and beyond. What is most worrisome to me as a grower is the reality that we could lose a large portion or even a whole crop if willing and able pickers are not available. This cannot be equated to freezing out in the spring because we can minimize our inputs going forward from the freeze date. At harvest time, all but the picking costs have been invested. Our lines of credit are fully utilized.
We have a leveraged investment that must be converted to cash. If we lose apples to the ground due to a lack of pickers, we could easily be forced to liquidate part of the farm to pay our lenders. As the apples ripen, there is about a 5 day window to pick them at the proper maturity. Different varieties and different strains of each variety allow us to manage harvest timing over the course pf 8 to 10 weeks.