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David Sparks Ph.d Workforce
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Idaho Ag Today
Date: April 16, 2018

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Drive the country back roads and everywhere you look, spring summer and fall, you see the men and women of agriculture. They are in the asparagus fields, the sheep shearing sheds, onion packing sheds, potato packing sheds, milking barns, wheat fields, sugar beet fields, and vineyards. They are the farm labor force for American agriculture. Hired workers that are mostly foreign-born and mostly from Mexico. As the 2018 Farm season gets rolling, they are in short supply. This is a situation that is getting way too common and creating change on farm operations. At Williamson Orchards and Vineyards in the Sunnyslope region of southern Idaho, owner Michael Williamson says he is adjusting to the manpower shortage in a few different ways. “We are keeping the folks that we do have around or have had for years, we are able to keep them but we have to increase our prices or pay rate to maintain those guys so they don’t walk away.” In a movement that started 20 years ago, a movement in the general workforce called job sharing, farmers are also sharing workers. “We do work with and talk to some of the other growers around. We do have a crew with the skill set to do a lot of vineyard work. We can come in there and get it done for them and maybe on a smaller scale. They need to get it done in a timely fashion and it keeps our people busy and gets their job done.”

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