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Picker Shortage Costing Yuba Farmers As Peaches Rot

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YUBA CITY (CBS13) – Some local farmers are willing to pay upwards of $200 a day for workers to pick their peaches.

So why can’t they find people to do the job?

The owner of a Yuba orchard starts everyday by knocking on the doors of potential workers, but with so few willing to take the work, he fears half his crop will end up rotten.

For Yuba County farmer Dalvir Gill, this year’s harvest is far from peachy.

“When it’s overripe, it’s no good,” said Dalvir.

Tons and tons of peaches are tossed out with not enough workers to pick them.

“As long as they’re on these trees they’re getting overripe,” said Dalvir.

Gill’s nephew, Gurpreet Gill, who usually works in the air-conditioned comfort of a bank, is using his day off to help do what mainly hired migrant workers did in years past.

“Usually by this time we’d have two of these orchards done, and we barely picked this one,” said Gurpreet.

But farmers say fear of stiffer immigration laws is keeping many workers behind the border. Combine that with a blisteringly hot harvest season plus delayed workers from up north, and you’ve got what amounts to rotting fruit.

“They’re even offering to pay more money. Where they were paying $15 a bin, now paying $16, $17, $18 and still can’t get any pickers,” said Gurpreet.

Dalvir says each day his peaches go unpicked, he loses about 5 percent of his profit. But with unemployment near 18 percent in Yuba County you’d think farmers would have their pick of workers.

“I been looking for a job and it’s just very, very tight,” said one unemployed man.

But while the unemployed man told CBS13 he’d head straight over to Dalvir’s farm to apply for work, he never showed up while CBS13 was at the farm, and farmers say that’s typical.

Farmers say workers from Washington and Oregon could arrive by next week. But with peaches going bad in just days, they may be too late.

The picking shortage is so serious that some farmers are looking at leaving peaches all together and going toward crops that require more machines than human picking.

The California Canning Peach Association says it’s still too early to know if the picker shortage will end up costing customers at the grocery store.

If you’re interested in picking peaches for Dalvir Gill, you can reach him through the California Canning Peach Association’s Yuba County office at (530) 673-8526.

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