Labor for Produce Growers Still a Major Issue
U.S. produce growers require a lot of labor, but they face a labor crisis in getting enough workers in the field and the packing houses. Little Bear Produce executive vice president Bret Erickson says they employ hundreds of workers every year, and reforms are needed to the H-2A program.
Erickson… “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, that's why you see so many of the produce companies have an international footprint now.”
Erickson said the Farm Workforce Modernization Act would help.
Erickson… “We need help on this. This is the biggest threat to our business and to our livelihoods, is being able to secure the labor. The Farm Workforce Modernization Act has already been passed out of the House. It is now on the Senate side being worked on by Senators Crapo and Bennett. It needs to be put forward for a vote, and we need our Senators to support American fruit and vegetable producers and pass that bill.”
Erickson adds now is the best chance for getting the legislation across the finish line.