Farmers in California Struggling to Find Workers To Help With Crops

In California, the unemployment rate is around 15 percent, yet there’s plenty of work. The only problem is no one wants do it.

“There’s a labor shortage here. We just never made it to get our crews assembled to do the work that we needed to do,” said Brad Goehring a wine grape farmer in San Joaquin County.

Farmers in California are struggling to find enough workers to help with their crops.

“We started out the season 25-30 percent short as the season has gone on we’re about 40 percent short,” Goehring said.

As a result, Goehring has to pick and choose which vineyards to tend, leading to increased costs for spraying and pesticides.

“Our labor inputs have gone up by about 300 percent because we haven’t gone in the fields in a timely matter,” said Goehring.

There’s plenty of workers here, the issue is legal status.

— Armando Elenes, National Vice President of United Farm Workers

United Farm Workers said one of the problems is that about 70 to 80 percent of the people willing to do the work are undocumented immigrants.

“There’s plenty of workers here, the issue is legal status,” said Armando Elenes, National Vice President of United Farm Workers.

Even with so many American citizens out of work, they just aren’t rushing for the fields for these jobs.

“We’ve tried hiring through EDD. Most people don’t even show up number one," Goehring said. "The few who do will actually just come out and slip off quietly without being noticed, and I’ve never had one return the second day."

Experts said that tighter immigration laws and the drug war along the border have contributed to the shortage. A recent Pew Hispanic Center Study shows that more Mexicans are leaving the United States rather than entering.

Bruce Fry said he barely had enough workers to help with his cherry harvest.

“There was no crop loss but there is definitely uncertainty of what labor is out there,” said Bruce Fry, cherry farmer in San Joaquin County.

And its not going to get any easier, the California Farm Bureau estimates farmers will need 400,000 to 450,000 workers during peak harvest season in the fall.

"There is a shortage out there, it is going to be hard work. But bottom line is if you want to get off the couch and put money in the bank here's your chance to do it," said Bruce Blodgett, Executive Director of the San Joaquin County Farm Bureau.

United Farm Workers believe that it’s the farmers fault they can’t find people to work and that finding good labor costs more money.

“They're not competing for labor, because if you're competing for labor if you really want workers to show up you would offer decent wages, you would offer benefits, you would offer better conditions that is not changing,” said Elenes.

Farmers like Bruce Fry argue that immigration reform is the key to solving the labor shortage.

“We need to get this problem solved so we have people here to come here legally and go back legally so we can get the crops harvested in a timely matter,” said Fry.

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