The Wall Street Journal reported in August 2015 that fruit and vegetable output is falling in the United States by more than $3 billion annually because farmers can’t keep enough workers in the fields. And that is only the beginning.
Crops rot on the vine, processing facilities are forced to cut their operating hours, family farms can’t take full advantage of their resources — all because of a persistent shortage of farm labor.
“It’s just really, really hard to find people,” said Travis Choat, owner of an irrigated farming and feedlot operation outside Terry.
He said that on average, despite offering more than $11.50 per hour, free housing, free beef and a gasoline allowance, he’s experienced a 300 percent annual turnover rate on the local people he has hired.
“We’ve offered the upper end of what we believe we can afford and still stay in business,” Choat said of his attempts to hire local employees. “We end up using day work and other things to try and get by. This is our limiting factor.”
Despite a U.S. Department of Labor report that 7.9 million Americans are available for work but remain unemployed and the average wage for farm labor jobs is now surpassing $11.60 an hour, the amount of available farm labor in the country remains in short supply.
“The industry says there is about a 40,000 person shortage in the agriculture sector nationwide,” said Montana Department of Agriculture spokesperson Jayson O’Neill. “That’s everything from unskilled labor to biotechnology.”
The exact reasons for…Read More