Dealing With A Labor Shortage in the Vineyards

While I know my position on the immigration debate in the U.S., I don’t claim to know exactly HOW the ultimate outcome will affect the wine industry. Wine is an industry that employs a number of migrant workers, a great many of which are surely illegal.

However, this little tidbit  found at the California Farm Bureau Federation website is very interesting:

"Meanwhile, Joseph Ramazzotti, owner of Ramazzotti Vineyards & Wines
in Geyserville, told the "San Francisco Business Times" last week that
nearly half of his laborers didn’t return from their annual winter
vacations in Mexico for the first time since they began working for him
10 to 15 years ago.

Ramazzotti estimated that of the 40,000 agricultural workers in
Sonoma Country, as many as 17,000 didn’t return from Mexico to work
this spring."

Part of the debate surrounding immigration reform centers on the impact on food prices were we to have far fewer workings in the fields and vineyards. Many suggest prices will go up since wages will rise as the supply of labor declines. Mr. Ramazzotti’s estimates are that 43% of the laborers did not return from Mexico to work this year. That’s HUGE, though it is, admittedly only a second hand estimate.

Still, it is something for the industry to consider: If immigration reform, or the threat of it, causes a shortage of labor come harvest, what will be the impact…BESIDES higher prices for wine?

4 Responses

  1. Derrick Schneider - June 27, 2006

    Here’s one: Small farmers who can’t get their crops harvested. Result: fruit dying on the plant and no money for the small farmer, who’s probably already in the red for the farm. More dollars spent on subsidies.

  2. lagramiere - June 28, 2006

    Tom, did they day why the workers weren’t returning? Just curious…

  3. tom - June 28, 2006

    No….they do not mention why they did not return. There are assumptions being made, hence the hesitancy in my post.
    How’s the growing season looking over there?

  4. lagramiere - June 28, 2006

    We had cold temperatures and 70-90 km winds right at flowering so lots of flowers didn’t set. I’ve heard that in some places the loss is up to 50%. The grapes are very small and irregular. I’d say that if we don’t get some rain soon, we might be making Côtes du Rhône port this year…. Stay tuned!

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