National Editor Tom Karst
National Editor Tom Karst

It may be another bumpy harvest season.

Recent coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle points to a shortage of workers for cherry harvest in California.

I also recently visited with a number of produce industry observers about the labor conditions in various states. I would say conditions vary, but it seems that growers in California and the Northwest will be under consistent pressure this year. There is more use of the H-2A program in Washington state, but the strain of expected record or near record crops of cherries and apples won't make this an easy year.

What about your area? Vote in this Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group poll poll and add your comment about labor conditions in your area.

What is the labor availability in your area for fresh produce harvest and packing?


In other news, the bankruptcy filing of Jensen Farms has been widely reported.

Coverage in The Denver Post reported that a lawyer for Jensen Farms said that the step is necessary to free up millions in insurance money for the victims of the listeria outbreak last year. This could be a long and messy battle, as plaintiffs have not only sued Jensen and Frontera, but also third party auditors and retailers who sold the cantaloupe.


In other news, the Federal Register has published the Obama Administration's final note on the child labor regulations it has decided to withdraw.


From the notice:

On April 26, 2012, the Department issued a statement announcing that it would withdraw the proposed child labor rule. Acknowledging the thousands of comments the Department received that expressed concerns about the effect the commenters stated the rule would have on small family-owned farms and farming traditions, the Department stated that “[t]he Obama administration is firmly committed to promoting family farmers and respecting the rural way of life, especially the role that parents and other family members play in passing those traditions down through the generations.” The Department stated that its decision to withdraw, rather than re-propose or finalize the rule, was based on its “deep[] commit[ment] to listening and responding to what Americans across the country have to say about proposed rules and regulations.” The Department explained that rather than re-proposing the regulation, it intended to work to promote safer and healthier working practices and conditions for children employed as farm workers by collaborating with farming organizations such as the American Farm Bureau and Future Farmers of America to develop educational programs that address hazardous agricultural work practices and conditions.


TK: Would the Obama Administration "respect the rural way of life" as much if this was not an election year? Probably not. Obama is badly on the ropes right now, and the withdrawal of the child labor regulation is another sign that we probably won't see the proposed rulemaking for the produce safety rule before the election.