Labor Shortage May Leave Washington Apples on the Trees

By:  Bruce Walker
11/10/2011
       
Labor Shortage May Leave Washington Apples on the Trees

Apple growers in Washington State — who produce about half of the country's apples, about 15 billion — have a bumper crop this year, among the best in the state's history. Yet many of these apples may never make it to market, because growers cannot find enough workers to pick them.

 

Apple growers in Washington State — who produce about half of the country's apples, about 15 billion — have a bumper crop this year, among the best in the state's history. Yet many of these apples may never make it to market, because growers cannot find enough workers to pick them.

Estimates are that almost 70 percent of these seasonal workers are illegal immigrants from Mexico. According to a CNS News report,

Farmers say an immigration crackdown by the federal government and states such as Arizona and Alabama scared off many more workers. They have tried to replace them with domestic workers with little success.

Mike Gempler, a farm labor contractor in Washington, says: "We've been dealing with this for a number of years now, and until something changes at the federal level, growers are going to struggle having enough workers." Governor Christine Gregoire recently traveled to Washington, D.C. with 15 apple growers to ask for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, which she claims would solve the problems of her state’s apple growers.

She asserted, "Our problem now is: How do we get it [the fruit] off the trees?  We don't have a work force, and that is at the doorstop of the federal government.

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