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California Farmers Once Again Facing Labor Shortages

Andrew Nixon
Capital Pubic Radio

California farmers are facing a serious shortage of labor according to a new report by the California Farm Bureau.

A survey showed that almost six out of 10 farmers were unable to hire all the workers they needed at some point in the past 5 years. Many of those farmers said shortages were worse the past two years, even though 86 percent of farmers said they had raised wages.

“With competition the way it is especially during peak summer season, minimum wage rarely applies especially when it comes to the harvest season," said Ryan Van Gronigen, who  grows melons, corn, and pumpkins in the Manteca area. "Those jobs are definitely well over minimum wage.”

Van Gronigen says mechanization helps some, but can’t replace the labor force entirely. He expects the peak season from June through August will see the biggest demand for labor.

“There’s Washington, there’s Utah, there’s Colorado, there’s all these different locations going that are in peak season in terms of harvesting fresh fruits and vegetables, he says. "So there’s a lot of competition when it comes to trying to secure enough labor to harvest all these crops.”

The farm bureau report shows some farmers are delaying pruning, switching acreage, and reducing the harvest.

Copyright 2019 Capital Public Radio