Todd Steinberg, Western Region Division Manager at
Topflight, said that StaffQuick comes once a week to their
conference room to interview applicants. “It has worked better than
some other things we have tried,” says Steinberg.
When asked if it completely took care of their staffing needs,
Steinberg responded that there is always the unanticipated work rush
that comes on and then it is usually impossible to find the help we
Most of the country is reporting a shortage in agricultural workers.
In states where agricultural workers tend and pick produce, there
has been a very high shortage of workers. Changes in national
politics and immigration policies have led to fewer immigrant
workers entering the country.
In the United States, 50 percent of agricultural jobs are filled by
immigrant workers and they are staying away because they fear the
person and the policies of President Donald Trump, who is waging war
against undocumented entry into the United States in order to fill
the job ranks with American citizens instead of foreign immigrants.
But the result is that American citizens don’t seem to want those
jobs. Seasonal and temporary jobs, unsanitary conditions, manual
back-breaking labor, and working outside all day don’t seem to suit
most Americans. Several states report that produce has rotted on the
vine because of the significant shortage of agricultural workers.
The result will be higher produce prices and maybe even shortages
because the crops just don’t pick themselves.
There is a shortage of agricultural workers here in Logan County
also. Agee Farms has had a sign out in front of their elevator
operation out at Bell Station since early spring. The sign
advertises for CDL (commercial drivers licensed) drivers and
Justin Agee and his family farm an increasing amount of acreage,
operate many machines and trucks, and usually have openings for
numerous workers. Without enough workers, the extra-long days and
the stress of harvest grows during the time of year when the hours
of daylight grow short.
Illiopolis farmer John Bruntjen advertised in more than 15 different
places for farm employees this year. “The turnout was terrible,”
Bruntjen said. He put ads in three different papers, put fliers with
tabs in numerous high traffic areas across the county, and did
everything he could think of to attract the labor he needed to bring
in the harvest.
Bruntjen, like Agee, continues to add acreage to his operation each
year and needs to bring in CDL drivers to bring the crop to the
elevator. Bruntjen remarked that this year very few applicants came,
and those who did come presented themselves very poorly. He hired
two men, and one of them didn’t show up for work on the very first
day. The second man dropped out before the week was over.
Bruntjen resorted to hiring some unqualified
applicants and he paid for their training and their CDL testing. It
turned out mediocre, Bruntjen said, because there were accidents in
the first week.
[to top of second column]
Steinberg from Topflight said that the local ag labor
shortage has to do with the fact that it is temporary, short-term
work being offered in a day and age when people are looking for
long-term, upscale jobs. The labor market right now is pretty well
filled with people who are looking to move up in position and pay,
but are not looking for part-time jobs. “So,” Steinberg said, “the
people we tend to get are the people who are between jobs and
looking for something, anything. But they usually don’t stay.”
The agriculture job marketplace is predicted to become worse in
coming years both on a national and on a local level, according to
an article in USA Today. Most agricultural producers are researching
and investing in new ways to bring in their crops with more
mechanization and fewer employees.
An article in Forbes magazine said that robots were going to replace
employees on the farm in the near future. The article said that
agricultural concerns can’t wait 10 years to resolve this problem
with automation. They need a fix in the next two to three years.
Companies like Tesla are moving ahead with designs for the next
generation of vehicles that are driverless, and are planning on
bringing out electric trucks that will drive themselves.
Systems like RTK continue to develop combines and tractors that
“almost” drive and operate themselves, but still require an operator
to be in the cabin to reposition at the end of each row.
Case IH has developed a self-driving tractor that they call the
“Terminator” of the agricultural world, which doesn’t even have a
cabin for a human operator. The Terminator is programmed by using a
tablet such as an iPad.
While it is not yet available, NASA says that with continuing
developments in Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, in years
to come self-driving tractors and combines will be commonplace.
In the meantime, farmers like John Bruntjen work through the annual
problems of trying to hire a fleet of workers to bring his crop in.
“You can never pay a good employee too much,” Bruntjen said.