Growers hope to avoid labor shortage

03/29/2013 01:52:00 PM
Tom Burfield

Jewell said California Giant also is supportive of efforts by organizations like United Fresh and Western Growers that are pushing for immigration reform.

“Last year, there were times when we got behind schedule during harvesting because there were fewer people in our crews than would be ideal,” she said.

Doug Ranno, chief operating officer and managing partner for Salinas-based Colorful Harvest LLC, was in Florida recently, where he talked with some high-ranking lawmakers.

“I think all of us in the agriculture industry should be talking as loud as we can about the need for this country to have comprehensive labor reform,” he said.

“That is the crux of what helps build a strong agricultural community and, therefore, a strong economy.”

Martha Montoya, founder and chief executive officer of Orange, Calif.-based Los Kitos Produce LLC & Farms, said there is a “100% chance of a labor shortage,” even if an immigration program is approved, because workers likely will try to find jobs in the city rather than work in strawberry fields.

She believes more promotion and increased consumption are key to keeping the industry thriving.

“Strawberries should become a lifestyle or staple for our families,” she said.

Growers also must become smarter about how they use water and fertilizer and how they spend their money, she added, and create higher-yielding varieties.


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