Farm labor shortage could be worse this year

Farmers worry they won't have enough workers to pick berries

Tracy Lehr, KEYT NewsChannel 3 Reporter, tracy@keyt.com
POSTED: 02:45 PM PDT Mar 12, 2013    UPDATED: 08:43 PM PDT Mar 12, 2013 
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VENTURA COUNTY, Calif. -

The Ventura County Farm Bureau is bracing for another labor shortage.

The Bureau's John Krist said farms experienced a 20 to 25 percent shortage last year and this spring could be worse. 

Ventura County is known for growing labor-intesive crops such as strawberries. Farm officials said acreage has increased along with the demand for seasonal workers.  Farms also compete with construction for workers. 

The shortage is likely to cause delays in harvesting fruit and annual maintenance.

Phil McGrath said the shortage has not affected his organic farm. He said it's the large farms that are getting used to labor shortages.

McGrath said the problem puts the spotlight on immigration reform.  Many farm workers are undocumented.  Some farmers would like to see an agriculture guest worker program that would allow temporary workers to be in the United States legally.