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Labor Shortage Forces Farmers to Contract Foreign Workers

This years' warmer weather means we could see an early harvest for local pears. Newswatch12's Sionan Barrett shows us why local growers say getting the labor to pick the pears is an international process.

Posted: Jan. 31, 2018 6:21 PM

TALENT, Ore.- Local farmers say they've run into issues hiring domestic labor for a decade. To fix the problem, they're going international, reaching out to Mexico and countries in South America to bring in workers to keep up with the local demand.

Ron Meyer is a third generation owner with Meyer Orchards. 
Meyer says, "When you need pear pickers you take anyone that you can get."

He says the labor supply is no longer in the Rogue Valley to do this field work. For the first time in its 108 year history, Meyer Orchards is working with foreign governments to staff its harvest team.

Meyer says, "The borders are better protected now so be illegal workers don't come in like they did at one time."

It costs around one thousand dollars to bring a migrant farmworker to Talent. There are 7 workers on visas staffing Meyer's 12 man harvest team.

Meyers says, "We actually bring them and we have to pay their way up and back and so it's a very expensive process but there are no alternatives."

He says labor is the most expensive cost of running the orchard, but 10 years ago this wasn't in issue. Now with an aging and decreasing local population of illegal workers, it's difficult to hire. Plus with the growing marijuana industry, people aren't looking towards the field for jobs. 

Meyers says, "They have been able to pay more than we have because their income is much better than the pear business."

Local growers tell me bringing in workers from Mexico and South America is becoming common place with one migrant network estimating between 1 - 2.7 million migrants temporarily working in the United States.

For more information on which orchards are hiring, you can call the Center for Farm Worker Advocacy at (541) 245-1625. 

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