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Worker Shortage Places Strain On California Farms

Evening Edition host Peggy Pico speaks with Eric Larsen, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, about the shortage of farmworkers in the California agriculture industry.

Worker Shortage Places Strain On San Diego, Imperial Agriculture Industries


Eric Larsen, executive director, San Diego County Farm Bureau


A shortage of workers in California is causing problems for farmers in the state.

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported farmers have switched their crops from those that need to be hand-picked to machine-harvested because there are fewer people to work the land. Some have moved operations to Mexico, where farmworkers are easier to find.

The number of full-time farmworkers in the United States has decreased by 20 percent between 2002 and 2014, according to a report from the Partnership For A New American Economy.

Eric Larsen, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, said the problem is due to the lack of immigration reform.

The number of potential new workers immigrating to the U.S. dropped by 75 percent because of tightened security at the borders, Larsen said.

“There used to be a more generous or easier-to-use system for people to come over,” Larsen told KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday. “We have not had any kind of extensive immigration reform since the Reagan (administration). These folks are aging out of the workplace and there’s no one to replace them.”

And, it’s been difficult for farms to find workers in the U.S.

“The reality of the situation is native-born Americans are not being raised to be farmworkers,” Larsen said. “People born in this country tend to look for work that’s different.”

Larsen said farmworkers need to be able to come in and out of the U.S. freely to grow crops — especially in California, a state that produces a significant portion of the nation's fruits and vegetables.

“It’s a growing problem,” Larsen said. “It’s getting to be a very serious problem. There is just no appetite for immigration reform right now.”

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