September 10, 2013

Labor Shortage About the Same As Last Year

Raisin Industry is Not Feeling the Pinch

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

Salinas valley labor in a broccoli field earlier this Spring.
Bryan Little who oversees labor relations with the California Farm Bureau Federation in Sacramento said the shortage of agriculture labor this year is about 25 to 30 percent, very similar to the way it was last harvest season.

Particular shortages are in Salinas Valley strawberries and Lake County and Delta area pears.  “There is fruit that is being left in the fields and on the trees; they could not get it out due to not having enough people, ” Little said.

Steve Spate, a Fresno County raisin grower and Grower Representative for the Raisin Bargaining Association said labor has not been a big issue. “There are some spot issues on getting enough people for crews. But there has been quite a bit of labor that has come over from the tree fruit industry, which is getting close to the end of their season,” Spate noted.

Spate said the raisin harvest started earlier this year, which allowed for a longer season for the workers to spread out their labor.

Spate also said workers make more money on the piece rate of laying down trays, than the hourly rate of picking up the rolls and boxing them. “Some growers in earlier vineyards are ready to box, but labor is not available. So, they are having to wait until workers have laid all the grapes on the trays for drying in other vineyards."

“I think we will make it through the season this year,” Spate said.

The reason that labor is short is due, in part, to trouble on the border. “There is crime and fear at the border, but the Mexican population there is getting a little older, and the Mexican economy is getting a little better. Put that with the fact that the U.S. economy is not all that great, and you have less people wanting to come here,” said Little.

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