LANSING, Mich. Michigan apple growers are desperate for help with harvesting this year's bumper crop after bad weather that hammered the state's orchards in 2012 sent workers elsewhere, industry groups say.
The Michigan Farm Bureau has sent "help wanted" postcards to agriculture labor contractors across the eastern U.S., mostly in Florida and Georgia. The net may be cast even wider, depending on the success of the appeal, horticulture and forest specialist Ken Nye said.
"We've got the next six weeks, give or take, to get this year's outstanding apple crop off the trees and into bins, to processors or fresh market retailers, or into storage," Nye said.
Apple industry groups reported last week that surveys of growers showed up a shortage of workers, threatening hopes for a successful harvest, the Farm Bureau said.
A rare early thaw followed by deep freezes in spring 2012 devastated apples, cherries and other orchard crops. Many seasonal laborers went to other parts of the country for jobs and haven't returned this year.
Another problem is the immigration debate and crackdown on those who are in the country without legal permission, which has discouraged some workers from coming to Michigan, farmers say.
The Farm Bureau worked with the Michigan Apple Committee and other groups to print and mail postcards to contractors registered with the U.S. Department of Labor. They include businesses or individuals who recruit, hire, furnish, transport and otherwise coordinate migrant or seasonal farm workers.
"Really we're just trying to get their attention - let them know that there are hundreds of well-paying jobs available right now in Michigan," Nye said. "It's a big ol' 'help wanted' sign - a direct appeal to a select group of people whose business it is to match available workers with available jobs."