LANSING — To help address ongoing labor challenges plaguing the state’s farmers, Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) is seeking growers’ insights to help identify specific needs and impacts of those problems as a first step in ultimately developing additional solutions.
“Farmers often note availability as their number one labor concern, which is problematic for all farmers, but particularly for Michigan’s specialty crop sector which has peak seasonal labor demands,” said Bob Boehm, general manager of Great Lakes Ag Labor Services, (GLALS).
Despite policy asking Congress for an agricultural guest-worker program and comprehensive immigration reform, there’s no legislative solution in sight.
Labor woes for Michigan fruit producers were compounded in 2012 when disastrous spring weather decimated fruit crops statewide, leading to the displacement of seasonal workers forced to seek work elsewhere. Many never returned.
The worker shortage led MFB to establish GLALS to help farmers navigate the federal H-2A foreign worker visa program to secure a stable, legal and qualified workforce.
“GLALS continues to grow and has been successful in meeting the needs of some specialty-crop farmers for temporary, seasonal workers,” Boehm said, “but we’re also hearing similar frustrations from our dairy industry as well.”
H-2A cannot be used for year-round jobs.
The confidential responses to the labor survey will be used to help identify additional specific agricultural labor needs and solutions.
“We hope the responses will leverage and motivate Congressional action on immigration reform, and provide additional insight on how Michigan Farm Bureau can assist our members in other respects, such as regulatory compliance, training and worker safety,” he said.
Click here to participate in the MFB survey or visit https://goo.gl/forms/d3iUa8tJpVNEQosU2