U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recently toured a farm in San Diego to better understand how California avocados are produced and learn more about what types of challenges the industry is facing. Secretary Perdue spent time at Rancho Guejito Avocado Farm in Escondido touring the operation and talking with industry members.
“It gave us an opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with just a handful of growers, to go out into an avocado grove,” said Tom Bellamore, president of the California Avocado Commission. “To give him a little better idea of just what grove conditions are like and what it’s like to be out in the fields.”
Secretary Perdue discussed the topic of labor while on the tour, taking a moment to review the U.S. Department of Labor’s proposed rule to update the H-2A program which had been announced earlier in the day. The H-2A update is being touted as a means to streamline the program, improving access to reliable agricultural labor and addressing excessive burdens for farmers.
“We went on to discuss it a little bit. We had been talking labor issues as they pertain to avocados and I think as we talked about the H-2A program, we certainly welcome the modernization of that and I think he recognized that ag not only needs that but perhaps a little more in terms of immigration reform,” said Bellamore. “So, a good discussion about the need for comprehensive immigration reform and that being a great first step in the right direction.”
Secretary Perdue also got an opportunity to harvest some fruit directly off the tree himself and heard about some of the other industry challenges for California avocados. Bellamore pointed out that the particular geography of the farm creates its own set of issues in terms of labor, with trees being planted on a steep slope. “It certainly presents a challenge from a labor perspective when you think about how to harvest that fruit and even keep trees irrigated under those conditions,” Bellamore noted.
Listen to Bellamore’s interview below.