What are strategies to lessen labor costs on produce farms?

Labor is among the biggest expenses a farmer can face, and it is impacting fruit and vegetable growers.

A recent report from USDA examined how producers are adapting to changing cost structures. With this industry being labor intensive, the majority of total expenses go to labor. An economic researcher gives some management strategies to keep costs in check.

“Basically in the short term, they can do a few things to deal with the increasing labor. They can have fewer passes through the field, for example, or they can use existing mechanical aids. They can start incorporating those technologies that are available in the longer term though. The main strategies that our growers have are things like bringing in more guest workers via the H2, a program, or other means, decreasing production actually of crops that just aren’t showing to be competitive, or they’re not going to be competitive. Long-term with imports and using or developing new technology for mechanical harvesters where those aren’t currently available or improving existing technologies,” said Skyler Simnitt.

According to USDA, labor’s share of cost of production can run as high as 38 percent for fruit and tree nut farmers and 29 percent for vegetables and melons.

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