Crops Rot Due to Labor Shortage

By Clare Leschin-Hoar, TakePart

Gary Larsen had high expectations for the asparagus crop he planted on his farm in Washington state earlier this year. He was eager to try new varieties from Canada and Germany, and in late April told the Tri City Herald that he hoped to harvest a whopping 16,000 pounds per acre of the tender spears. After all, growing conditions had been just right for a robust harvest. But less than a week later, Larsen was in the news again — this time for abandoning 100 acres of that very same asparagus crop.

Why? For the first time since 1984, Larsen couldn’t find enough skilled workers to bring the crop in from the field. Harvesting asparagus is back-breaking work. The spears need to be plucked at their peak, and cut close to the dirt, which means bending every two to three feet. They’re then carefully placed in boxes, which workers have to lug with them through the field.

Hector Lopez, the foreman at Larsen Farms, told the Herald that workers were in the fields ten to 12 hours a day instead of the regular five to six hours. For a harvest that goes seven days a week for nearly 10 weeks, the labor shortage is sharply felt.

While some point to low wages as the culprit, growers in other parts of the country are echoing similar concerns over farm labor shortages.


Alabama growers say they’re planting less produce after the state began cracking down on illegal immigration. Instead of growing diverse crops like fruits or vegetables, some are turning to industrial crops that require less labor, like cotton or peanuts.

“It’s unclear how many farmers are changing their planting patterns this year because of the law and whether consumers might see food shortages on the produce aisle at supermarkets,” reports the Associated Press.

In California’s Central Coast, vegetable grower Tom Ikeda is in full harvest mode, but says he’s having difficulty filling harvest crews. Nearby farmers are in the same predicament, and the California Farm Bureau Federation has heard similar complaints echoing throughout the state.

Immigration battles in states like Georgia, Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah have had the unintended consequence of significantly impacting farm labor. And, as noted in the recent Pew Hispanic Center report, the migration flow from Mexico to the U.S. has stopped, and may have reversed.

Dick Minor, partner at Minor Produce, a family-owned farm, and president of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, told NPR recently that lawmakers in Georgia aren’t listening.

“I think they had a political agenda, they were going to accomplish it, and they didn’t really think about the impacts on the economy of our state — especially on the agricultural industry,” he told NPR. “But it’s not just agriculture. It’s all the service industries: construction, hospitality. You know, a lot of this labor is being used every day here in the state and all across the country.”

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Photo Credit: wworks


W. C
W. C9 months ago


William C
William C9 months ago

Thank you for the article.

Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a year ago

thanks for sharing.

Michael C.
Michael C5 years ago

Steve R, Do you have a reading disability or are you just angry due to your failure to understand the subject matter.

Americans are just plain lazy, after all, imagine someone from Detroit picking strawberries in Alabummer. There is a dispute and instead of someone throwing a strawberry, he pulls a gun. Hey, they do it all the time, Michigan 1,095 gun deaths, 977 motor vehicle deaths

Alabummer is #2 in the nation with regard to gun deaths, something to do with interbreeding.

The new drone program speaks to America's Laziness, we can't even stand face to face with our alleged enemies...we have to kill them with joy stick.

Susan Duncan
Susan Duncan5 years ago

Well, duh. What kind of idiot politician could not link the stability of small farms and an affordable food supply with immigrant labor? These xenophobic crackpots were so hellbent on "ridding" their states of immigrants that they threw away the baby with the bath water. More evidence we have a crop of non-thinking, reactionary zealots in charge in too many states. This nation's wealth was built on the backs of Mexican workers during the early 1900s and the economy flourished for decades due to their labor contributions. Now all of a sudden, they can't be "tolerated" much less offered an optional path to citizenship and better working conditions. I, for one, appreciate the hard work of Mexican immigrants. Where are all the "good" Americans who want to deport all undocumented immigrants? Out working in the fields in the blazing sun for many hours each day? Not likely. Mexicans are an important part of our labor force. They should be appreciated and their lives made better. And, yes, I live in an area with a very large Mexican immigrant population so the argument that I don't know what "they're like" is nonsense.

Jose L.
Jose L.5 years ago

BTW, I didn't mean to sound so aggressive or stereotype everyone having "wealth". The nonsense of flat tax and gutting "welfare" system or ignoring the lopsided leverage position upsets me. This isn't a game. In a game, that lopsidedness is great.. and then the game restarts all over so everyone has a new chance. In life, we allow these lopsided leverages (but it could be much worse) but have nothing comparable to the reset button. This leverage costs individuals and society if underpaid. That Congress pays more attention to the very wealthy is a reason we need to change Congress.. likely with an Amendment or more.

Jose L.
Jose L.5 years ago

The largest welfare our government gives are to the elite owning most US assets, granted exclusivity by the military and courts, while they pay a fraction of that in taxes for that huge service rendered by our government. These folks have exclusive right to make that wealth beget wealth, and their dollars earned, per dollar, are much easier than what you and me make. While they sit back to earn interest, we work to pay and hopefully not drown in compound interest. Surely, they are on any given day, per effort, making a killing. Shouldn't that result in higher taxes (and a wealth tax) or rules of play that are more fair to those almost stuck behind? It's a feedforward system. The more you have, the easier it is to make money, implying the harder it is if you are behind.

Not collecting taxes means high inflation or misery are the alternatives. High inflation is currently not practiced and leads to huge market swings and various inefficiencies (eg, wages would constantly need to be adjusted). These concerns might be solvable, especially today with advanced computation not available in the past. In any case, one major problem is wealth imbalance so that a small group commands significant leverage in negotiations.

One way or another, those enjoying exclusive use of US resources should pay proportional to that privilege and leverage in the market place, but they don't. Most wealth is concentrated providing huge leverage to the holder and great opportunity costs to the rest of

Mary B.
Mary B5 years ago

Once again, I recommend those of you who think welfare is a free ride, and immagrants and low wage jobs are unskilled, read "Nickled and Dimed" On not 'getting by in America.' That is, if you dare to know the reality rather than your own twisted stereo-types, and if you actually can read.
We need a whole new way to 'do money' in this country, where those who do the work that is really needed, like farm workers, child and elder care providers,cleaners, and anybody else who keeps the world moving for the rest of us , gets subsidized by the social safety net directly from our money printing press, rather than tax dollors. Then let the big company live on their own profits, which are more tham ample.

John S.
Past Member 5 years ago

I'm not certain paying more would accomplish anything. Then people will not buy the food because it's too expensive and it just gets thrown out later in the process.

Jose L.
Jose L.5 years ago

Pensacola P, I thought you were talking about Wall Street welfare thieves, or the minority in this country who own most of the wealth thanks to our us government military, courts, etc, yet pay a fraction of that in federal taxes and even less in sales and other taxes.

I would like to see those "clean" thieves who don't pick anything do the actual picking and for what we pay migrant workers who were unlucky enough to be dropped outside the boundary line by the stork delivering them to their parents.