Fruit and Vegetable Farmers Battle Labor Shortage Amidst Immigration Reform
Fruit and vegetable farmers continue to struggle with a shortage of available U.S. workers, according to a Newsline report from the American Farm Bureau Federation. Without immigration reform, American fruit and vegetable farmers have no chance of getting the new agriculture labor programs they desperately need.
“[Immigration reform] is paramount for our industry,” says Chalmers Carr, a South Carolina peach grower. “Not just my operation, but for all my peers that actually grow fruits and vegetables in this country.” Although Carr has used the current program, H-2A, for years, he claims that there are still times when he doesn’t get the workers he needs when he needs them.
Doug Krahmer, a blueberry grower in Oregon, suggests that fruit and vegetable crops rely on foreign labor because Americans don’t want these jobs. Although Krahmer advertises locally in stores, laundromats, community centers, and through the employment division, he finds that “[American workers] don’t want to do this kind of work.”
“In the last two years, we’ve advertised over 2,000 jobs,” says Carr. “We’ve had about 600 U.S. workers, so about one-third of our need, come out and apply for them, yet we’ve only had 15 take the job and stay on the job all the way though.”
Without enough workers, both Miller and Carr assert it is not possible to pick crops with such a small amount of workers. “It’s just not possible, no matter what side of the country you’re on,” says Miller. “If Americans want domestic fruit and vegetable options, they’re going to have to realize it takes foreign workers.”
Fruit and Vegetable Farmers