Labor Shortage

Dear Good Fruit Grower:

I am writing in response to Kent Lundgren’s "Utilize American Labor" letter to the editor in the May 1, 2008, Good Fruit Grower.

Mr. Lundgren suggests that growers don’t need foreign workers, that all they need to do is seek out the estimated 14 million unemployed domestic workers.

What Mr. Lundgren fails to recognize is that several Washington ­agricultural employers have attempted to do just that.

The latest data I have shows that in 2007 Washington State Employment Security Department and the U.S. Department of Labor acted on twenty-six Washington State
H-2A applications seeking 1,804 foreign workers for agricultural employment. Before those applications could be approved, the employers had to conduct a domestic national advertising campaign in an effort to attract domestic workers. The estimated 14 million unemployed domestic workers had an opportunity to respond.

Domestic workers were promised a guaranteed minimum wage significantly higher than the Washington State minimum wage and industrial insurance protections. Those that lived outside daily commuting distance to the work site were also promised free transportation to the worksite from their regular home and free housing.

Those multiple national advertising efforts failed. As a result, Washington State Employment Security and the U.S. Department of Labor recognized the labor shortage and authorized tree fruit growers to hire 1,609 foreign workers to fill their labor needs.

Employers do not want to use the H-2A guest-worker program; they would prefer to employ domestic workers who are legally eligible to work in the United States.

Unfortunately, employers are being forced to use H-2A because there are not enough eligible and willing domestic workers.

Kirk B. Mayer
Washington Growers Clearing House Association
Wenatchee, Washington

Gambling Tip

Dear Good Fruit Grower:

Please extend my hearty thanks to Dave Allan for producing some of the best ideas on club varieties to date ("Club varieties a gamble," in the March 15 issue of the Good Fruit Grower)! Just curious to ask, though, "Hey, Dave, what are you planting this spring?"

Hans Groenke
Mattawa, Washington

Basic Bee Boo-boos

Dear Good Fruit Grower:

I am writing in response to the "Basic bee biology" article on page 14 of the March 15, 2008, issue of Good Fruit Grower. Dr. Pett, as I understand the article, recommended that growers open beehives and inspect them. The problem with this is that the U.S. Supreme Court, about 20 years ago, ruled that beehives are private property. Intrusion into hives can result in growers having criminal charges filed against them. This is something neither party needs or wants. Permission must be obtained from the beekeeper first. In California, hives are checked by a qualified third party, which is included in the written contract with the grower.

When upon "working" the hive, the grower could very easily kill the queen bee by accident, resulting in severe problems for the hive owner and reducing the pollinating ability of the hive—wasting the money that the grower has spent on it.

If, on a warm sunny day with low wind, the hive does not have a good steady flight of bees in and out of it, please contact the beekeeper. A good beekeeper will take care of the problem promptly. They may be very busy, so please be a little patient with them, as many work most of the day and night during pollination.

Both the grower and beekeeper are partners in this industry, and we need to work together for the benefit of both of us.

Oh yeah, by definition, a drone is a male honeybee. A female drone? Maybe they had an operation!

Kim Naasz
Bones Bees
Yakima, Washington