As farmers prepare to enter the spring harvest season, reports across the state suggest that farm labor may be at a premium, with record statewide labor shortages threatening the state’s massive agricultural industry.
Ever since last year’s contentious immigration battles in Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama, farm labor and immigrant work programs have been a critical issue farmers desperately want Congress to address. Last spring, several states passed tough immigration regulations intended to curb the influx of illegal immigration. One of the unintended side effects of these bills has been a critical shortage of farm labor, leaving states like Georgia and Alabama facing millions of dollars in lost revenue.
While California has not passed a similar immigration crackdown, recent farm reports suggest that California farmers are facing the same labor shortages. According to one San Luis Obispo County farmer, “We started noticing labor getting tighter a couple years ago. Then last year it got even worse, and this year it seems like it is getting to be much more challenging. Our harvest has come into full swing in the last month, and that is when we really started noticing that we are having a tough time filling out harvest crews.”
According to farmers, the problem is a combination of American citizen’s unwillingness to work agricultural jobs as well as Congress’ refusal to pass meaningful immigration reform. In particular, farmers have singled out the lack of effort to change outdated immigration programs and Congress’ refusal to alter the guest worker program as major threats to agricultural production. Without these reforms, and with the national climate growing more and more opposed to immigration, many farmers worry that they could face chronic labor shortages over the next several years.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer