Washington Sees Students as Solution to Labor Shortage

A bipartisan bill seeking to alter Washington State’s school schedule will also address chronic farm labor shortages across the state, supporters say.

Last year, Washington farmers experienced a major farm labor shortage at the height of harvest season. Orchardists across the state lost significant portions of their crop due to a lack of farm hands. State officials attempted to use convict labor, but the prospect of minimum wage was not palatable to many potential workers.

The bill in question would rearrange the school schedule to make it easier for children to work on farms while away from the classroom.

In addition, the bill would allow schools to offer classroom credit for students working on farms. According to Representative Norm Johnson, “The bill leaves it pretty wide open as to what [schools and colleges] can do. They could work as a senior project, colleges could offer some tuition incentive, some type of program where students could get credit for this.”

The Superintendent of the Sunnyside School District in Yakima County has come out in favor of the plan. While he hasn’t read the legislation, he has supported the idea of offering school credit for agricultural work.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer