A new drought impacting Pajaro Valley fields has nothing to do with weather patterns.
Farm labor shortages this summer have forced those working in agriculture—a $565 million industry in Santa Cruz County—to clock overtime shifts and seven-day-a-week schedules and, in the most-dire situations, abandon crops and plow-in fields.
“The labor has been very tight,” said Tom Am Rhein, of Naturipe, a Watsonville strawberry grower. “There’s been some degree of crop loss as a result.”
There are no firm figures detailing the size of the worker shortfall. Some farmers in the Pajaro Valley said their labor crews are 10 to 20 percent off previous years. Most blame it on tighter immigration policies that caused fewer migrant workers to come across the border from Mexico.
Dick Peixoto of Lakeside Organics in Watsonville—who farms everything from arugula to watermelon radishes—called it a "major shortage."
"It’s the worst labor problem I've seen in 30 years," Peixoto said. "It’s definitely not getting better."
It’s a phenomenon apparent across the U.S. agriculture industry.
For more, see: Farm Labor Shortages Plague Pajaro Valley Growers