Agricultural industry members in San Luis Obispo County have been working with local county officials to address farmworker housing concerns. Executive Director of the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau, Brent Burchett explained that through cooperating with several other industry organizations and county staff involved in planning they have been able to make progress in making it easier to build housing for workers.
“We’re pleased that our county is looking at a revised ag worker housing ordinance that will make it easier to construct on a farmers property new ag worker housing for his workers,” said Burchett. “We hope that this will be a positive step, that we can at least house people when they get here.”
While the state has made attempts to address housing for ag laborers, those efforts have not been met with positive reviews from the industry. Burchett pointed out that a local approach might achieve better results. “There are opportunities to make things easier if you have a board of supervisors and county staff that are willing to listen to agriculture and we’re really proud of the cooperative effort that’s happened here over the last several years to hopefully culminate with an improvement in this process,” Burchett noted.
The increased ability to construct farmworker housing may not resolve all of issues related to ag labor, but it is a step in the right direction. The increasing cost and decreasing availability of labor are two significant concerns for the industry. Eliminating some of the added cost of transportation and uncertainty of housing arrangements can go a long way in helping keep farming operations successful.
“If we want our workers to be able to have security of staying here and really supporting the economy and contributing to taxes like they’re such a huge part of today, we’ve got to make changes at the local level and California’s housing crisis is certainly felt nowhere more than in the agriculture community,” Burchett explained.
Listen to the interview below.