Almost a month after the bill for comprehensive immigration reform was passed by the US Senate, and the debate in the House of Representatives is continuing to drag on and on, local farmers grow ever more eager for a solution to be found as they face a continuing labor shortage that many believe could be solved by immigration reform.
Ocean Mist is well known for its fresh artichokes, but it actually grows over 30 different kinds of vegetables on farms throughout the West Coast and in Castroville, and it requires a lot of hands to be able to make sure that all of that produce is able to get to market. “We probably have 800 people plus working today, harvesting produce, working in our farming operation,” says the Chief Operating Officer of Ocean Mist Farms, Joe Pezzini.
In recent times Ocean Mist, as well as a number of other growers in the area, have come up against a labor shortage, citing a variety of different factors such as fewer immigrants crossing over the border, an improving economy in Mexico and increased enforcement in the United States. Around 70% of farmers growing labor intensive crops such as vegetables and fruits reported a shortage of workers in 2012, and the survey this year is beginning to trend in the same direction.
Jim Bogart, the Grower-Shipper Association’s President and General Counsel, says that the problem is worse than it has ever been, and continues to push for immigration reform.