Growers fear possibility of skilled labor shortage

07/20/2012 12:41:00 PM
Tom Burfield

“A lot of factors go into the tight labor situation,” said Cindy Jewell, director of marketing for California Giant Inc., Watsonville.

She cited an industry shift that is taking place in California.

An increase in the size of the raspberry crop in Southern California is keeping pickers in the southern part of the state longer rather than moving up to Santa Maria or the Watsonville-Salinas area to harvest strawberries, she said.

Also, with new, higher-yielding varieties, harvesting a field can take longer than in the past.

Despite an increasingly desperate situation, few grower-shippers expect politicians to take action anytime soon.

Resolving the issue requires leadership from the White House and a serious effort from a Congress that recognizes the importance of the issue and works together to solve it, Ostlund said.

“In an election year, it’s a lot to ask,” he said.

Wishnatzki doesn’t expect any significant action between now and November, but he said he hopes there will be serious debate after the election.

“(The labor shortage) could come to a critical point where whoever the administration is, they will have to do something to alleviate it,” he said.

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