Farmers facing migrant worker shortage

A migrant worker shortage could impact production in 2013.

For farmers, itâ??s the start of another growing season, but a migrant worker shortage could impact production in 2013.

â??The labor source is key to farmers and economic development in the area,â?? said Jim Bardenhagen, Bardenhagen Farms.

Bardenhagen runs an apple and cherry orchard in Leelanau County. He also sits on the policy board for the Michigan Farm Bureau.

Bardenhagen tells 7&4 News, because of last year's crop damage, there was not enough work for migrant farmers. Some may not return for work this year.

â??They found places to go elsewhere. Washington has a big crop. So the big question is this year, are we going to be able to get those workers back again? There are a lot of positives about coming up here, they like the area, so we're hopeful of that,â?? said Bardenhagen.

The Farm Bureau says there is another reason workers may not return.

Migrant workers, with questionable status, fear traveling through states that have strict immigration laws.

â??Families may have one individual out of that family who may have questionable statusâ?¦with the passage of State laws it has become evident that many families are choosing not to travel in fear of that one person within their larger family group having problems,â?? said Craig Anderson, Michigan Farm Bureau.

Anderson makes it clear that the Farm Bureau does not endorse illegal immigration.

Instead, they are hoping to find a way to document those who are here illegally, while still allowing them to work in the states.

â??We are looking at some kind of guest worker legislation so they can come in here, work legally for the season, and then go back to their home...or ones that are here and want to stay here, you give them a type of Visa that would enable them to stay and work in agriculture, but they would be documented properly,â?? Bardenhagen said.

Bardenhagen tells 7&4 News it is still to early in the year to determine exactly how short the state will be on migrant workers.

He says by mid-April they will have a better idea of the challenges they will face this season.

Workers at this farm typically make a wage of $10 an hour.