Thursday, June 29, 2017

Labor Shortage Leaves $13 Million in Crops to Rot in Fields

Last year marked the fifth consecutive year Santa Barbara County’s agriculture industry has struggled with labor shortages, which have ranged from 15 to 26 percent. Farmers, therefore, must leave crops to rot in the fields. An estimated $13 million of strawberries, broccoli, leafy greens, and other unharvested produce were plowed under last year, up from five years ago when losses amounted to an estimated $4.4 million, according to the region’s Grower-Shipper Association. Central Coast growers do not receive government subsidies for mowing unpicked berries and veggies as Midwestern farmers do for destroying wheat or barley. Some area growers have insurance for losses from heat waves or pests but not for lack of workforce. Total, there are anywhere from 15,000 to 23,000 ag workers in Santa Barbara County, most of whom are from Mexico. The number fluctuates as most crops are picked multiple times a year. A field of strawberries can be harvested two to three times per week for roughly six months. Strawberries are just one small piece of the labor shortage. In the last decade, according to the Pew Research Center, more Mexican immigrants have been leaving the United States than have been arriving. As Mexico’s economy improves and becomes less reliant on agriculture, Mexicans are having fewer children and “feeling less the push to migrate north,” said Lucas Zucker of CAUSE (Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy). Security has also tightened along the southern border...more

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Since more and more of the fast food jobs seem to be taken by non-english speaking employees, maybe the unemployed teens & college students could work in the fields, learn something and get some paid exercise.

I picked up a side job mucking stalls and paddocks - losing weight, building muscle and strength and the pain in my neck and shoulders has gone away.