“It’s just not the work most people want to do,” Chalmers Carr, owner of Titan Farms in Columbia, SC, tells the National Journal. “Have you ever tried pruning in January? That would mean holding the prune sheers at [eye level] or above your head, pruning trees for about 10 hours a day. And it could be 32 degrees outside.”
Carr has been vocal about the need for immigration reform. This year, he told the National Journal he advertised for 500 seasonal workers in his local newspaper. He received 31 applications. Six of the original applicants are still working for Carr. He uses the H-2A guest worker program to fill the rest of his needs. This was after the previous owner of Titan Farms relied on migrant labor. Carr says a federal review of the workers’ W-2 forms showed 90% of the Social Security number did not match up.
“I said, ‘no, I’m not going down the same road.’ That’s when I went into the guest-worker program,” he told the National Journal.
Like for Carr, labor is a great need for Sam Mento of Atlantic Blueberry Co. in Hammoton, NJ.
“Typically we can use 70 people but had to do it with about 42 this year,” Mento tells the Atlantic City Press.
Mento told the newspaper that he lost some fruit because it could not be picked in time. Although he uses migrant workers, he is often unsure he will have the proper staffing from year to year. Immigration reform, says Mento, should be industry-based.
“There are unemployed construction workers. What we don’t have are unemployed agricultural workers,” he says.