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Labor problems could mean food goes to waste on New Jersey farms

The labor crunch is a thing on New Jersey farms as well; some of which are already on the cusp on having to let food go to waste in their fields. Agriculture Secretary Douglas Fisher, in his testimony before the Assembly Budget Committee, said he’s hearing from farmers who have had trouble finding enough workers for this growing season.

“They’re not getting the help they need,” Fisher said. “And in fact, for instance yesterday I was on a farm where the farmer has asparagus and he’s basically not going to be able to get it cut. Because he doesn’t have enough workers. He can’t attract enough workers. He’s tried desperately.”

“It’s not unlike what you’re hearing in the restaurant trades – I mean, everywhere,” he said. “It’s really a very difficult issue. Landscaping, once again, they can’t get enough help. Very, very troubling right now.”

Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester asked: “If you’ve got a farmer with asparagus in the field, can’t get it out, there’s only – that stuff doesn’t sit around and wait. So what happens?”

“Goes to waste,” said Fisher. “Gets plowed under or there might be a gleaning operation. We might be able to have that farm be able to arrange for some gleaning. But it doesn’t help the farm’s bottom line. It’s just an act of generosity.” explains that New Jersey ranks fourth nationally in asparagus production, though it dropped 18% between 2018 and 2020. It was grown on 2,000 acres in the state, with production valued at nearly $15 million.

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