Even more worrisome to Shannon than the water situation is the lack of good workers and the rising cost of labor. For example, his crews finished pruning operations by the second week of March. That was much later than usual, he says, because he couldn’t get the number of workers he needed.

“If you took a short drive around the valley in the middle of March, you’d see vineyards that still hadn’t been pruned yet, but were starting to push,” says Shannon, who also serves as secretary of the California Association of Winegrape Growers and chairman of the CAWG Foundation.

Grape growers aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch.

“Over the past few years we’ve seen that, as the season goes on and different commodities start coming in, it’s getting harder and harder for growers to get the type of crews needed to do the job,” Shannon says. “In our case, we’re fortunate, because we have good relationships with the farm labor contractor who takes care of us. But, it’s becoming more difficult for some of the smaller growers to count on getting workers.

“Our country needs some type of guest worker program that will provide the workforce required to produce our food.”

If you would like to read more about California grape growing, subscribe to GrapeLine, the exclusive electronic newsletter sponsored twice a month by Chemtura. To sign up, go to the Newsletter Sign Up box at the bottom-right of the Western Farm Press home page (westernfarmpress.com). It’s free and e-mailed the second and fourth weeks of each month from March through October.

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