Farmers Scramble for Help as COVID-19 Scuttles Immigrant Workforce
Delays in harvest could send wheat prices higher, making it difficult to secure supplies to make bread and pasta
The novel coronavirus delayed the arrival of seasonal immigrants who normally help harvest U.S. wheat, leaving farmers to depend on high school students, school bus drivers, laid-off oilfield workers and others to run machines that bring in the crop, reports Reuters.
As combines work their way north from the Southern Plains of Texas and Oklahoma, farmers and harvesting companies are having a hard time finding and keeping workers. Any delays in the harvest could send wheat prices higher and cause a scramble to secure supplies to make bread and pasta.
Josh Beckley of Beckley Harvesting Inc., based in Atwood, KS, typically counts on migrants for about 30% of his workers. This year, Beckley had no foreign laborers on his crew.