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Recruiting ag labor for 2016

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A 2012 total crop failure for Michigan fruit growers is still causing long-term labor concerns.

Dawn Drake with the Michigan Processing Apple Growers tells Brownfield seasonal workers didn’t have a crop to pick that year and didn’t come to the state the following year to work, even though the trees rebounded with a record crop.  “It left our apple growers, many of them, without workers to pick their crop.” She says, “We ended up leaving about five million bushels of apples in the orchards because there was nobody to pick the fruit.”

She says since then more farmers that need workers to hand harvest are taking a hard look at the H2A program.  “Because of the aging workforce and just because of the lack of availability of workers, do you really want to keep your fingers crossed and hope the workers are going come? Or to you want to invest in some kind of an H2A program which guarantees that you’re going to have the workers in order to get your crops harvested.”

Drake says some farmers are also using farm labor contractors to source seasonal workers.  “The only thing that we’ve told people that are looking at a farm labor contractor situation is to just make sure they understand all of the legalities and liabilities that go into working with a farm labor contractor.”

And just like in 2012, Drake says there is already some concern about an early spring in 2016 and the damage it may cause after a warmer than normal winter.

AUDIO: Interview with Dawn Drake

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