California Labor Shortages Detailed in Survey

Brian GermanIndustry

Results from the survey conducted by the California Farm Bureau Federation confirm that labor shortages are continuing to hinder farming and ranching operations throughout the state.  The information collected earlier in the year reflect a similar trend to the survey conducted in 2012.labor shortages

There were a total of 762 farmers and ranchers who submitted information as part of the survey, with 55 percent reporting employee shortages during the past year. Of that number, the incidence of labor shortages was even more apparent for employers who rely on seasonal workers, with 69 percent reporting problems with acquiring sufficient labor. The shortages were seen predominately in crops that require a significant amount of hand labor.

The survey participants were comprised of a diverse group of farmers growing a wide range of commodities including tree fruit, grapes, nuts, rice, and wheat.  Employers have been increasing recruiting efforts, as well as offering higher wages and other incentives in hopes of attracting more labor. However, reports indicate that fewer individuals are applying for seasonal harvest jobs.

Many farmers indicated their operations are moving more towards mechanization in response to the labor constraints. Farmers also reported planting fewer acres, or simply leaving some crops unharvested. Other respondents noted changing crops or reducing cultivations activities like pruning trees and vines.

Respondents to the survey also addressed the future of labor requirements in farming operations and the need for improvements to immigration policies. Only three percent of those who participated in the survey noted using the existing H-2A agricultural immigration program. Many farmers cited the cost and overall burden inherent with the program as reasons they did not use the H-2A program.

The impact of age was also highlighted as an important factor for labor supplies over the next 10 to 15 years. Close to 34 percent of respondents are seeing employees retiring or having hours reduced because of their age, further complicating existing labor shortages.