Northwest Farmers Plan To Bring More Mexican Guest Workers North This Year

By Anna King

RICHLAND, Wash. – A group of Northwest farmers plans to bring in thousands of legal Mexican guest workers to their fields and orchards this year. Last season many farmers were scrambling to pick their crops because of a worker shortage.

The federal H-2A guest worker program is so cumbersome and expensive, that most farmers haven’t wanted to use it. Employers have to pay for transportation, approved housing and usually more money than the going wage for workers already in the U.S. But labor shortages in Northwest fields and orchards have grown more acute. So now, about 25 farming operations are banding together to bring even more migrant workers north legally. This time they’re recruiting from Mexican border towns, to avoid trouble spots further south. Dan Fazio, heads the Washington Farm Labor Association out of Lacey.

Dan Fazio: “So if we could source workers from Chihuahua, Sonora or even Durango, both the employer and the worker wouldn’t have to travel such great distances.”

Last year Fazio’s group brought in about 4,000 workers. He says this year he hopes to bring about 5,000.

Copyright 2013 Northwest Public Radio

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