Wednesday, October 10, 2007
NorCal Farmers Worry Fruit Will Rot On Trees. too little too late
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Farmers in and around Northern California are starting to feel the pinch from tighter border security and visa requirements, NBC11's Daniel Garza reported Monday.
Some farmers told Garza they expect some of their fields to remain unpicked. They said the illegal immigrant workers they have depended on to pick their fields are no longer crossing the border because of the tighter security at the border.
Some said they believe their fields will end up filled with rotting produce.
The Bush administration has learned of the possible loss of millions of dollars for thousands of farmers throughout the country, and is attempting to loosen visa requirements for workers.
However, farmers told Garza the attempt is "too little too late."
The president has blamed Congress for failing to come up with acceptable new immigration laws.
Experts expect the impact on agribusiness to affect Americans' pocketbooks, Garza said.
Working in the fields is a hard job that few will do, according to Pete Aiello of Uesugi Farms in Gilroy.
"We'll have guys out in the field as early as 5 o'clock in the morning and the last guys won't leave the field until six or seven o'clock at night," said Aiello.
Growers said not only is the supply of workers getting smaller, but the federal guest worker program known as the H-2A Visa is too time-consuming.
"When you submit an application often times they can't turn it around for two or three months and by then half our harvest season is gone," Aiello said.
A White House spokesman said it is important for the farm sector to have access to labor.
I'm really happy the government is about to raise an eyebrow about the situation," Aiello said. "Unfortunately by the time they actually sit down and put their noses to the grind stone and try to implement something, that could be years down the road before it's finally done."
The owner of JJ&F Food Store, John Garcia, said in the long run consumers will feel the impact of fewer farm workers.
"The supply is going to be down," said Garcia. "Demand is going to be up. It's going to increase. It's going to increase a lot."
Grocery chains Zanotto's and Whole Foods said they have yet to see increased prices for produce because of farm labor shortages