More than 60 percent of California farmers said they had a difficult time hiring enough workers throughout 2012, according to a survey by the California Farm Bureau Federation.
Among farmer who grow labor-intensive crops (tree fruits, vegetables, table grapes, raisins and berries) 71 percent reported employee shortages.
Some growers said they had delayed pruning and harvesting. Others used mechanization if it was available. Still others left some of their crops unharvested.
In some cases, farmers said that though they may have been able to hire workers, the employees were not sufficiently skilled and it took longer to complete the work. That also led to delayed or unharvested crops.
The report cited this example from a San Joaquin County grape grower:
A San Joaquin County winegrape grower who hires 26 to 50 employees for peak season reported experiencing employee shortages of 10 percent to 20 percent. The farm employer said she has delayed pruning and utilized mechanization to deal with the shortage. She offered increased wages and still had a hard time securing enough employees for harvesting winegrapes.
The survey was posted online in September and October and received 794 responses from farmers and ranchers throughout California. The report concluded that there is an escalating concern about worker shortages.
"This may be an indicator of a long-term trend that farmers will face in coming years, absent the creation of effective programs that allow people from foreign countries to enter the United States legally to harvest crops," the report said.