California Fresh Produce Growers Suffer a Labor Crisis

California Fresh Produce Growers Suffer a Labor Crisis

The issue of farm labor shortages is nothing new to producers in California. While the issue might have been spotlighted during the pandemic, the fresh produce industry has struggled to obtain a sufficient amount of farm labor for a long time.

Unlike other crops, fresh produce still requires humans, and lots of them, to harvest delicate fruits and vegetables.

The golden state isn’t the only one facing this problem. Texas native Bret Erickson, Little Bear Produce Executive Vice President, says they need hundreds of workers each year.

“At the peak of our season between harvesting on the farm and packing the product in the shed and getting it into the warehouses and out the back door and on the trucks, Little Bear Produce is probably employing close to 1,000 people directly or through the contractors. The labor challenge for us is tight in the field and it's tight in the packing sheds and I foresee us utilizing H-2A in a really big way going in the future.”

However, he says the current H-2A program needs serious reform to help lower the costs of labor and food.

“We’ve seen this coming a long, long, long time ago. The cost of using H-2A, it's ridiculous. It is a very burdensome, cumbersome program to use. Unfortunately, it has become the only tool that we have available to us. Companies like ours, we continually are looking outside the borders of the United States to expand our growing programs because we can't afford the labor we need, we don't have the labor we need here.”

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