As expected, no simple solutions, but plenty of discussion about a labor shortage in the fields and orchards of Washington that could threaten a huge portion of Washington's economy. Washington's agriculture industry continues to put out record crop totals, but it's all for naught without a workforce to bring in the harvest. Fewer workers are turning out to work on Washington farms, as reported to the Senate Agriculture, Water & Rural Economic Development Committee on Thursday. Those testifying had a variety of reasons for the shortage. Growers like John Wyss of Gebbers Farm pointed the finger at fear of persecution and deportation by the seasonal workers, 72 percent of whom are described as "document challenged" and called for immigration reform.
John Wyss: “Stand next to us and demand that we reform the immigration system in this country to provide us our necessary workers and that is what we need from you.”
Growers groups like the United Farm Workers Stephanie Patricio said if you treat them well, the workers will come.
Stephanie Patricio: “It is why we believe if you truly want to stabilize the agricultural workforce, we must address the wages and working conditions of Washington’s farm worker.”
Committee Chair Brian Hatfield says the meeting was a good start and more will take place as the state protects one of its most valuable economic providers.
Sen. Hatfield: “I think a debate about what is and isn’t a problem, what is and isn’t working, obviously more conversations have to take place, more communication back and forth between folks representing farm workers and the ag community.”