I don’t typically pay very close attention to immigration issues, but got this letter from a good friend in Washington State today and wanted to share it with you:
In case you’re not on the same mailing list that Roger used below, I’m forwarding a message sent out this week regarding our farm. For some of you this is just FYI — as friends, we need your prayers. Others of you may be able to do more. Please pray that something changes very soon… for us and for our nation. The agricultural industry is hurting and so few people know or understand the implications!
Date: September 6, 2012 12:57:51 PM PDT
Subject: **Help wanted*
For those of you who don’t know, we’ve struggled for a number of years to have an adequate number of folks working in the fields March-November. Last year we were short 300 workers during harvest, but we managed to get most apples off because it was a ‘short’ crop. This year, we’ve been blessed with good weather and a good crop, but we are now trying desperately to fill 800 picker positions and we are having a very hard time of it.
We’re recruiting far and wide and have had some success, hiring individuals from as far as Cincinnati, Somali and Burmese refugees from Spokane, others from CA, ID and OR, etc. But sadly, there are just not enough people coming forward. Farmers of many crops have been reporting huge labor shortage problems during the last two years from AL, AZ, GE, CA, MI, etc. Some of these problems are due to state-level immigration policies that did not help their situation, but unfortunately, it’s not just a phenomenon happening in states less hospitable to immigrants. Our federal government dictates most of our immigration policy, and holds the key to addressing this critical issue for agriculture.
In the meantime, we’ve increased our starting wage twice since the beginning of the year – while still balancing an uncertain market and uncertain returns. We started at $9.50/hr at the beginning of the year and bumped it up to $10/hr this summer. Now, we currently are paying $11/hr as a starting wage but are not finding many takers.
We’re feeling very much like we’re in a crisis that few know about and fewer understand given the state of unemployment nation-wide. Any help you can be to make our search known to others would be much appreciated.
Thanks and Blessings,
PS. For those interested, here’s some more literature on the issue:
1.2012 Seattle Times article on asparagus in WA state: http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2018528816_asparagus26m.html
2.2012 Fox news article on asparagus growers: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/05/17/labor-shortage-for-washington-state-farmers-highlights-immigration-issues/
3.2011 article on last year’s labor situation and the labor problem across the US:http://www.thenewstribune.com/2011/10/15/1865615/heat-on-immigrants-makes-harvest.html
4.2011 Tom Nassif with Western Grower’s Association – testimony to US Senate – documents various efforts WA State and other States have made to get folks to work in agriculture: http://www.judiciary.senate.gov/pdf/11-10-4NassifTestimony.pdf
5.2011 Article mentioning the inmate labor used last year in WA: http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2011/11/09/washington-state-is-desperate-for-apple-pickers-experience-preferred/
6.2012 CA growers dealing with shortage of labor this year: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/06/11/151940/central-california-growers-struggle.html