With harvest in full swing on the West Coast, farmers in California and other states say they can't find enough people to pick high value crops such as grapes, peppers, apples and pears.
The shortage has meant delays or smaller harvests for growers. But farmworkers, whose incomes are some of the lowest in the nation, have benefited, their wages jumping in California to $2 to $3 over the $8 hourly minimum wage and even more for those working piece rate.
The shortage has been driven by a struggling U.S. economy, more jobs in Mexico, and bigger hurdles to illegal border crossings.
About half of California farmers are experiencing worker shortages, according to a preliminary survey by the state farm bureau federation. Many of the growers say their workforce has decreased by up to one-third.
"This year, it has become even more challenging to find agricultural employees, and it's going to get worse in the next few years," said Noe Cisneros Jr. of Freedom AG, a Kern County labor contractor who manages a crew of up to 300 workers.
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