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Surveyed California farmers say they can't find enough workers

December 05, 2012|By Marc Lifsher
  • In an online survey of 800 California Farm Bureau Federation members, 61% of respondents said they dealt with worker shortages of varying degrees this year. Above, a farm laborer picks watermelon cucumbers at a San Diego County farm.
In an online survey of 800 California Farm Bureau Federation members, 61%… (Sam Hodgson / Bloomberg )

SACRAMENTO -- Two out of three California farmers reported having a hard time finding enough workers to pick their crops this year.

In an online survey of 800 members conducted by the California Farm Bureau Federation, 61% of respondents said they dealt with worker shortages of varying degrees.

Farmers growing labor-intensive crops, such as tree fruits, vegetables, table grapes, raisins and berries had the most trouble finding mostly immigrant workers to pick and prune.

The affected farmers attempted to ease the shortage by offering higher wages, delaying pruning or harvesting, using mechanization if possible and by leaving some of the crop to rot in the fields, the survey said.

One in five farmers surveyed cut back production to get by with fewer workers.

"California farmers have given us a glimpse into what may happen if current trends continue," said Farm Bureau President Paul Wenger.

"Without the creation of a secure, effective program that allows people from foreign countries to work legally in the United States to harvest crops, we could see continuing or worsening problems, especially for small or mid-sized farms."

In the wake of the presidential election, both President Obama and Republican leaders inĀ  Congress have talked publicly about the need to start negotiations aimed at passage of a comprehensive immigration bill. Any such legislation would be expected to address the need for some sort of so-called guest worker program for agriculture.

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