In 1949, historian and journalist Carey McWilliams wrote, "The farm labor problem is the cancer which lies beneath the beauty, richness, and fertility of the Central Valley.” Sixty-four years later, not much has changed.

The overall March unemployment rate stood at 14.1 percent in San Joaquin County and 14.6 percent in Stanislaus County. For those willing to take on the grueling tasks associated with working area farm fields, that rate was zero.

“Contractors have said they could use upwards of 300 percent more workers,” said San Joaquin Farm Bureau Executive Director Bruce Blodgett. “It’s been rough (to find workers) this year. Back in January when people started finding crews, we knew it would be tough.”

The Central Valley has nearly 400,000 seasonal farm workers. Most studies indicate the majority of those workers are in the country illegally.

For more, see Struggling farmers watch immigration reform closely

 

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