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Farm Worker Shortage Hits California Ag Industry

Jul 29, 2013

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Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

For the second year in a row, California farmers are complaining of a worker shortage.  Ben Adler reports from Sacramento on how the state’s $43.5  billion agriculture industry is feeling the squeeze – and how consumers might, too.

Last year, nearly two-thirds of farmers in a California Farm Bureau Federation survey said they didn’t have enough workers to pick their crops.  This year, says the Farm Bureau’s Brian Little, it’s a problem again.  For farmers, that means…

“You’re not able to do things in a timely manner; you’re not able to do it as thoroughly or carefully as you might normally do; and it winds up affecting overall what you can do, the quality of the product that you can produce and ultimately the price that you might be able to get in the market,” says Little.

Little blames the shortage on demographic and political trends, including an older Mexican population, a lower Mexican birth rate and tighter U.S. border security.

The crops feeling the squeeze over the past two years include cherries, wine grapes, leafy greens, strawberries and peaches.