Valley farmers dispute EDD farm labor numbers
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- West side farmers say one of the biggest casualties of the three-year drought is the dramatic loss of jobs.
But state figures don't reflect that bleak picture. They show the ag industry has been fairly stable.
Local advocates say the numbers don't tell the whole story.
West side farmers estimate over 40-thousand ag jobs have been lost because of an on-going drought. But the Employment Development Department says farm employment in California actually rose between 2007 and 2008 before dropping point-four percent to 389,200 jobs in 2009.
EDD Labor Market Information Manager Nannette Potter said, "We haven't really seen a drop in farm employment. It's probably one of the more stable industries in Fresno County."
In Fresno County, the EDD says the number of farm jobs has risen the last three years.
But Manuel Cunha of the Nisei Farmers League says the EDD numbers don't paint an accurate picture because so many farm workers are undocumented.
Cunha said, "Those people that cannot get the unemployment are those people that have problems with their documents and that is in California running right around 90-percent."
Nanette Potter believes farm workers are merely leaving the west side to work in other valley fields and orchards. Potter explained, "Just by the numbers I would just say that people are finding work where work is available."
We've all seen the food lines on the valley's west side.
With Mendota struggling with a 41% unemployment rate, Cunha says the EDD farm job numbers just don't add up.
Cunha said, "It's not at all an accurate at all reflection of the real jobs lost."
Potter said, "I don't discount what they're saying but I don't see that in our data."
The EDD considers ag jobs ranging from farm laborers to accountants and truck drivers.
mendota, agriculture, ag watch, dale yurong
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