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West Michigan's Fruit Growers Struggle as Labor Costs Soar
Michigan Ag Connection - 05/26/2023

In West Michigan, fruit growers are facing financial crisis as labor costs skyrocket, pushing them to the brink . The escalating expenses, driven by increases in hourly wages for H-2A workers, are putting immense pressure on the already strained profit margins of local farms.

The region's fruit growers are grappling with the dilemma of balancing rising labor costs with the need to maintain quality and meet consumer demands. While automation is becoming an increasingly popular solution for cost savings, some farms, , remain committed to hand-picked produce due to its superior quality and market appeal.

The reliance on foreign agricultural workers hired through H-2A visas comes at a significant price. The hourly cost of H-2A labor in Michigan saw a substantial 12.8% increase in 2023, resulting in a wage hike from $15.37 to $17.34 per hour. This sudden surge has left farmers anxious about the financial implications and their ability to sustain their operations.

The United States Department of Labor's adverse effect wage rate, which establishes the minimum pay for H-2A workers, is a non-negotiable factor in the mounting labor costs. With little time to plan and adapt, farmers are grappling with the immediate impact of this wage increase to their bottom line.

As West Michigan's fruit growers confront these mounting challenges, they face the pressing need for a viable long-term solution. The sustainability of the region's agriculture industry hangs in the balance as farmers seek ways to navigate the rising labor costs while ensuring the quality and affordability of their produce for consumers.

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