Opinion: New Legislation Has Growers Concerned About Labor Shortage

All For One, And One For All

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What in the world is going on these days? The cost of fuel is nothing short of outrageous, and the price just continues to rise. Input costs, especially fertilizers, have risen dramatically since the year 2000. On the surface, the outlook looks very bleak. It is at times like these, however, that I must whip out an old cliché: “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

For some, you may be able to do that — literally. Where can you do that, you may ask? How about your farm market? 

Take a minute to look at the big picture: Everyone is impacted by rising prices, especially for fuel. Many growers who opt to sell their produce in their own backyards, however, may be able to avoid charging more for their fresh produce if they don’t have to transport it long distances. Rising fuel costs also come at a time when we are hearing more about the significance of locally grown produce. Many consumers are becoming increasingly interested in knowing where their produce originated, making the local farm market even more appealing.

Having an opportunity to offer locally grown, farm-fresh produce to customers in your area is a win-win situation for growers and consumers. You can offer the freshest produce at a fair price.

Consumers will be happy because they know where their produce came from, and they will know it is fresh.

So go ahead and flaunt what you’ve got. Update your farm market signs and emphasize the part about “locally grown” and “farm fresh.” Do some advertising in the local paper. Let the public know when your tomatoes or strawberries will be available. Serve lemonade at your farm market, too, and keep the customers coming back for more.

Update On No-Match

What growers don’t want coming back to them are no-match letters from the Social Security Administration. At press time, the No-Match Rule is back in the news with the Department of Homeland Security’s supplemental proposed rule. As most will recall, the No-Match Rule will require businesses to take the necessary steps to resolve Social Security number discrepancies within 90 days.

On top of that, Western Growers recently released a statement indicating that the Bush Administration’s proposed changes to the guestworker program are not workable. According to Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers, the agriculture industry will continue to be faced with labor shortages of 20% to 30%. As an industry, it will be a tremendous hardship to produce food with such a labor shortage.

I don’t know about you, but this is unacceptable. Remember, the U.S. enjoys one of the safest food supplies in the world. Do we really want to start relying on other countries to supply us with our food? I don’t think so.

We need to rectify the labor and immigration issues, and we need to work with Congress to get the necessary work done. It is time again to some noise. In essence, make lemonade.