July 29, 1963
Honorable Augustus F. Hawkins
A little known California industry that will be seriously crippled and possibly destroyed by lack of imported Mexican labor is canning Kadota figs.
For some years the average annual pack has exceeded a half million cases with its attendant requirements of labor, cans, sugar, trucking, fiber, fuel, banking, insurance, etc. Figs are extremely fragile and the time from "ripe enough" to "over-ripe" is approximately 48 to 72 hours. They must be picked during that time or lost.
For many years Kadota growers have used all the domestic pickers they could get in spite of the fact they are not dependable. Many growers have sustained important losses due to taking domestic pickers into their orchards only to find that before noon almost all of them had disappeared and many had taken their grower-supplied buckets and rubber gloves with them. This is repeated day after day while the crop spoils.
Domestic labor, qualified or not, simply won't pick figs. A fair picker can make $1.25 per hour and good ones $1.75 to $2.00 per hour. Imported labor is expensive but necessary to save the crop. It takes eight to ten years to develop a full bearing orchard and growers are faced with pulling them out if they have to depend on non-exsistent domestic labor. We hate to see all this land converted to idleness or the growing of cotton, grain, or other mechanized crops that are already in scandalous surplus. The loss of this industry would hurt our economy considerably and add to the drain, just as will the threatened loss of tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, melons and others.
We ask that you do your part to see that some relief is granted to the sudden-death situation now facing this industry.
Very truly yours,
V. E. Scott