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Ohio and Michigan are in a pickle by being out of pickles
By Federico Martínez, Free Lance Contribution to La Prensa

First it was tomatoes; this summer Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan fresh-market pickle producers will lose millions of dollars because farmers can’t attract enough migrant workers to pick their crops.
 

“If we can’t get workers to come here they’re going to have a bad year this year,” said Baldemar Velásquez, president of Toledo-based Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC).  “They’re not coming here this year.”

FLOC staffs have been trying to help local pickle farmers recruit workers, but there’s been very little interest on the part of migrant workers, Velásquez and one local farmer said.

Charles Jones, 71, owner of Charles Jones Produce LLC, Northwest Ohio’s largest fresh-market tomato producer, opted to shut down Oak Harbor operations in 2013 because he couldn’t attract enough migrant workers to pick his crops. The decision cost him millions of dollars, but was still less than if he would have planted the crops and had to let them rot, officials at his company said last year.

With only a month to go before the peak tomato season begins, Jones, who lives in South Carolina, has given no indication that he plans to resume operations in Northwest Ohio this summer, said Velásquez. FLOC previously represented 500 farm workers who were employed by the tomato grower.

Pickle farmers would need about 400 more workers in order to salvage their crops this summer, Velásquez said.

“It’s hard for migrant workers to come a long distance for one crop,” he said. “And, border patrol increases the risk for working the area. I’m not sure what’s going to happen, but if a solution isn’t found soon it could effectively kill the industry.”
 

Copyright © 1989 to 2014 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 07/22/14 20:24:09 -0700.

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