Local Workers Hard to Come By in Colorado

Farmers face more uncertainty, as costs of labor increases and reliability decreases.
October 6, 2011, 7am PDT | Cathie Pagano
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Farmers in Olathe, Colorado often participate in the federal H-2A program that allows them to bring in foreign workers.

"This year, though, with tough times lingering and a big jump in the minimum wage under the program, to nearly $10.50 an hour, Mr. Harold brought in only two-thirds of his usual contingent. The other positions, he figured, would be snapped up by jobless local residents wanting some extra summer cash."

Unfortunately, according to Mr. Harold, many locals weren't up for the hard work and left the job after only six hours.

"The H-2A program, in particular, in trying to avoid displacing American citizens from jobs, strongly encourages farmers to hire locally if they can, with a requirement that they advertise in at least three states. That forces participants to take huge risks in guessing where a moving target might land - how many locals, how many foreigners - often with an entire season's revenue at stake. Survival, not civic virtue, drives the equation, they say."

Thanks to Cathie Pagano

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Published on Wednesday, October 5, 2011 in The New York Times
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