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California Farmers Voice Need For Guest Worker Program; Warn Of Crop Shortage

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A farmworker picks lettuce in a field. (Hector Mata/AFP/Getty Images)

A farmworker picks lettuce in a field. (Hector Mata/AFP/Getty Images)

DougSovern20100908_KCBS_0208r Doug Sovern
Doug began his career as a copy boy at the New York Times, and then...
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SACRAMENTO (KCBS) – California could have a shortage of lettuce and strawberries, and an overabundance of almonds and walnuts, if Congress doesn’t enact immigration reform soon.

California farmers said they are having trouble finding enough workers to pick their crops, and may have to switch to machines.

Guadalupe Sandoval, a former farmhand who heads the California Farm Labor Contractor Association, said about 70 percent of California farmers had trouble staffing their harvest.

“What we’re seeing is a lot of labor shortage. Strawberries right now being harvested and they can’t find enough workers to do that work,” said Sandoval. “It’s not badly paid work. It’s well paid work, but there just aren’t enough workers out there.”

Jason Resnick, of the Western Growers Association, said fewer Mexicans are immigrating, and when the farmers try to hire Americans to do the work, it normally isn’t a fit.

“People come, they work for a day, and they don’t last a day,” he said.

Resnick said that some farms are switching from asparagus and artichokes to tree nuts and other crops that can be picked by machine. His group is lobbying the House to vote on immigration reform, and even conservative Republicans in the state legislature are calling on Washington to enact a guest worker program to address California’s farm labor crisis.

“We need to give them the opportunity to come here, do the hard work Americans aren’t doing, and go back home if that’s what they choose to do,” Resnick said.

Many farmers and industry leaders are in Washington this week, meeting with members of Congress, urging them to approve immigration reform legislation that would bring in immigrants to work year-round.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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