Labor Issues

Labor Issues

Labor Issues. I’m Greg Martin with today’s Line On Agriculture.

Labor has been on the top of farmers minds for the last several years and in some situations the lack of labor has been disastrous. Just ask some northwest asparagus producers. Dan Fazio, executive director of the Washington Farm Labor Association talks about what is happening now in terms of workers.

FAZIO: In terms of the labor shortage right now some people are filing emergency applications for H2A workers if they need them and we’re busy doing that. We have several people that we’re working with that have an emergency because they don’t have enough workers and then related to that we are working with the Governor’s office and writing our research report right now that will be done for the end of this year on the labor shortage and the obstacles to a legal and stable workforce.

Washington Congressman Doc Hastings continues to push for that stable workforce.

HASTINGS: I think we have to have a workable guest worker program. Keep in mind we can’t make any of our growers policemen. They are required to look at the identification, if the identification meets the standard then they’ll hire people. But in many cases after the fact you find out that identification has been forged.

We have heard of companies trying to hire local out of work people by advertising and not really getting much response. Fazio admits there is a shortage.

FAZIO: There is a labor shortage. It’s a long term structural problem in our economy we’ve seen it since 9/11/2001 we’ve seen it building and we had big labor shortages in 2006 and 2007 and then of course the recession kind of matched it a little bit but now that we’re getting out of the recession we are going to have a problem because it’s no secret that a large number of the people that work in agriculture are not legally documented to be here and until we solve that problem we are going to have labor shortages in agriculture.

Congressman Hastings says he has been working on the issue and there is some good news.

HASTINGS: What we have to - and I’ve been continuing to work on this with my colleagues is to try to get a workable guest worker program so there is some predictability and stability in the labor force. But unfortunately that gets bogged down in other extraneous issues. The good news is - and this is still a work in progress - that there is more and more of a realization that labor intensive agriculture needs to be treated differently than other areas.

That’s today’s Line On Agriculture. I’m Greg Martin on the Ag Information Network.

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