Nearly two-thirds of farmers in a California Farm Bureau Federation survey said they had trouble finding enough workers to help them tend and harvest crops this year.
Among growers with labor-intensive crops such as tree fruits, vegetables, table grapes, raisins and berries, 71 percent reported employee shortages.
The responses came from 800 participants in a voluntary online survey the state Farm Bureau conducted during harvest time. The results were unveiled Dec. 4 during the CFBF's 94th annual meeting in Pasadena.
The results affirm personal accounts that Farm Bureau officials heard from producers throughout the state this year who struggled to find enough people to work on their farms, noted Paul Wenger, a Modesto almond grower and the CFBF's president.
"Employee shortages were widespread among farmers who responded to the survey, and they reacted by taking a number of steps to cope with the problem," Wenger said in a statement.
To deal with workplace shortages, farmers offered higher wages, delayed pruning and harvesting, used mechanization in some instances or didn't harvest some of their crop, the CFBF reported in a news release.
In all, 19 percent said they planted fewer acres or didn't harvest all their crop, according to the survey.
Growers acknowledged they rely on a largely immigrant work force and that efforts to hire U.S.-born employees on farms have been largely unsuccessful, even during the deepest part of the recent recession. The findings would tend to support ag organization's push for immigration reform, Wenger argues.
The survey results are available on the CFBF's website, http://www.cfbf.com/ .
- Tim Hearden