RICHLAND, Wash. – A group of Northwest farmers plans to bring in thousands of legal Mexican guest workers to their fields and orchards this year. Last season many farmers were scrambling to pick their crops because of a worker shortage.
The federal H-2A guest worker program is so cumbersome and expensive, that most farmers haven’t wanted to use it. Employers have to pay for transportation, approved housing and usually more money than the going wage for workers already in the U.S.
But labor shortages in Northwest fields and orchards have grown more acute. So now, about 25 farming operations are banding together to bring even more migrant workers north legally. This time they’re recruiting from Mexican border towns, to avoid trouble spots further south.
“So if we could source workers from Chihuahua, Sonora or even Durango, both the employer and the worker wouldn’t have to travel such great distances,” says Dan Fazio, who heads the Washington Farm Labor Association out of Lacey.
Last year Fazio’s group brought in about 4,000 workers. He says this year he hopes to bring about 5,000.
On the Web:
H-2A guest worker program (Department of Labor)