Labor Crunch

Posted on February 26, 2014

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Early responses to the California Farm Bureau Federation’s 2013 agricultural workforce survey point to labor shortages in excess of 30% and far more unmet demand for labor than in previous years. With the 2013 wine grape harvest beginning two weeks earlier than normal in California, at a time when the table grape harvest is peaking and berry crops are still in full swing, labor shortages were undeniable.

According to Nat DiBuduo, president of Allied Grape Growers in Fresno, competition for seasonal employees is stiff as workers follow the highest-paying jobs. He cited instances of strawberry growers hiring vineyard workers, only to have raspberry growers step in and offer those workers higher wages. From all accounts, the money follows the most perishable crops. “There’s no question that wages are escalating and growers are stretching out the timing of their harvests,” DiBuduo said. “They are not getting as much fruiton the market as fast as they would like.” Fifth-generation Lodi grower Kyle Lerner was pressing chardonnay when he gave Vineyard & Winery Management an account of the challenges he faced this year in Lodi. “From where I’m standing, the labor situation is insane,” he said. “We’ve seen it dwindle to levels that are almost frightening.” Lerner had to prioritize vineyard work during the growing season, which meant that some tasks, such as shoot thinning, were a lower priority. Read the full article Labor Crunch here.