Farmers struggling to meet labor needs, survey says

Farmers in the Golden State are reporting a continued struggle in hiring agricultural workers, a survey conducted by UC Davis and the California Farm Bureau found.

Among the findings, 56 percent of reporting farmers report they have been unable to fill all their employee needs at some point in past five years.


Of those farmers, nearly 70 percent said they had more difficulty hiring in 2017 and 2018. In 2016, by comparison, the figure was 20 percent lower.

The survey of 1,071 ranchers was conducted at the outset of 2019. This year’s percentage of farmers reporting employee shortages is a one percent uptick from the Farm Bureau’s 2017 survey.

Farmers have resorted to a number of economic tactics to cover the shortfall in labor, with an overwhelming majority – 86 percent – raising wages to recruit more ag workers. More than half of respondents had turned to mechanization to aid in shortages.

Only 6 percent of reporting farmers had enrolled in the H-2A agricultural visa program, the Farm Bureau reported from its survey.

“Through the years, the H-2A program has proven inadequate for farms in California and throughout the nation,” California Farm Bureau president Jamie Johansson said. “Farm Bureau will continue to work with Congress to create a secure, flexible, market-based immigration program that works better for both farmers and farm employees.”

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