California farmers and ranchers are being asked to participate in the 2019 labor survey to establish an accurate baseline of the state’s labor needs. The Farm Employers Labor Service and the California Farm Bureau Federation are collaborating with the University of California, Davis in offering the agricultural labor availability survey. The 2019 labor survey should not take any more than ten minutes to complete and will be available until Tuesday, February 5. All responses to the survey will remain anonymous and confidential.
The purpose behind conducting a labor survey is to hear directly from industry members on what needs are not being met in order to formulate more articulate needs to regulators and lawmakers. Fresno County Farm Bureau Executive Director Ryan Jacobsen noted that the feedback obtained through labor surveys is exceptionally valuable because “the more information we collect, the more information we’re able to aggregate and that becomes very, very helpful when we start talking to our senators [and] to our congressional representatives.”
In the 2017 Agricultural Labor Availability Survey, there were 762 farmers and ranchers throughout California who responded, with many reporting issues with obtaining adequate labor. A total of 55 percent of the respondents indicated they were experiencing employee shortages to various degrees. Of the agricultural operations that use seasonal employees, 69 percent reported having labor shortages. Many farmers reiterated some of the issues from the 2021 survey including reports that fewer individuals are applying for seasonal harvest jobs despite improved recruiting efforts, increased wages and increasing benefits. An interesting figure from the 2017 survey showed that less than three percent of respondents reported using use H-2A agricultural immigration program.
Immigration policies appear to be one of the main issues affecting labor availability in agriculture. The agricultural industry as a whole, particularly in California, has been calling for meaningful immigration and labor reform for a number of years. Farmers and ranchers have been making changes to production practices such as converting to less labor-intensive crops and investing in mechanization as a result of continued labor issues.