Ag Today May 31, 2017

Immigration policy threatens crops

Posted: May 30, 2017 12:18 PM PDT Updated: May 30, 2017 12:28 PM PDT

Credit: NBC Newschannel

The winds of change are blowing through fields growing a huge portion of the nation’s fresh fruits and vegetables in California’s Central Valley.

Many fear a worker shortage because of immigration crackdowns, saying it could be catastrophic.

“It’s not like your food is going to be twice as expensive, it’s going to be five times as expensive, and that just doesn’t seem to be on people’s radars,” says Jason Carter, general manager of Zotovich Winery and Vineyards.

“I would say there is concern,” says Kern County Farm Bureau Executive Director Beatris Sanders.  “There has always been concern about our workforce is largely an immigration population.”

Many longtime migrant workers are in the United States illegally, and the uncertainty on what could happen to them is rustling through the agricultural communities from citrus to nuts to vineyards.

“They move, they shift, they migrate, this is what they do,” Sanders says.  “They follow the crop, they follow who is paying. They follow the consistency of fieldwork. That is where in inconsistency of labor comes.”

Pistachio farmer Tom Coleman says he has seen a labor shortage already, but his trees are more easily harvested than other row crops.

“The people who have quite high hand labor costs, berries, things like that – it’s very difficult for them to find the labor,” Coleman says.