"We are trying to sound the alarm without being alarmist, but the situation has become extremely serious," says Tim Chelling of the Western Growers Association, whose members grow, pack, and ship half America's produce. "We are now talking of losing the production of key commodities to foreign competition. America's produce industry is facing a crisis."Oh well. I'm sure they can figure something out, like for instance farm mechanization rather than relying on foreign serf labor. As an alternative, perhaps they could pay the full price for that labor, instead of paying a low wage and sticking everyone else with the true price.
Although the shortage was worsening before 9/11, it's now extreme, Mr. Chelling and the three California farmers say. Without an emergency guest-worker program, they will be dramatically short of the minimum number of workers needed to harvest the current crop. Without long-term immigration reform that acknowledges America's reliance on foreign workers, farmers will not be able to make ends meet, they say.
Imperial Valley lettuce farmer Jack Vessey says it's the worst in his lifetime. Farther north in California's Central Valley, orange grower Manuel Cunha calls it the most constrained since before World War II. Coastal tomato grower Luwanna Holmstrom constantly worries about a repeat of two years ago, when she had to plow under $2.5 million in tomatoes left unpicked.
Fri, 12/02/2005 - 06:24 · Importance: 4