Texas's Agriculture Commissioner Visits J&D Produce's Little Bear Brand Farms
EDINBURG, TX - It was a big week in Texas. Sid Miller, Texas’s Agriculture Commissioner, recently toured the grounds of J&D Produce’s Little Bear Brand Farms in Edinburg, Texas, December 6th, where he assessed the wants and needs of industry movers and shakers. The first issue up to bat was labor, before topics like weather and this year’s great harvest were explored.
Here to speak with me on the matter is Bret Erickson, the company’s Director of Business Development, who sheds light on the importance of the commissioner’s visit to J&D’s farms.
“We are in the thick of our season right now and we are harvesting, planting, packing, and shipping around the clock. We are currently growing over 30 different veg items, so there was plenty for the Commissioner to see in terms of variety of items and activities,” Bret says.
While there is much for the company to boast of, the tour took a serious note by addressing some of the problems the industry is facing. Labor shortages, drought, food safety regulations, liability in the event of an outbreak, increasing input costs, and good ol’ Mother Nature are just a few of the challenges that the company navigates in its pursuit of growth, but labor seems to be one of the biggest issues at hand; with the Commissioner’s relationship with the Trump administration, J&D voices the struggles in getting legislation fixed so it can grow the business to the best of its ability.
“The biggest challenge currently facing J&D is probably labor. The labor supply has continually tightened year after year; we can’t plant as many acres as we would like because there is not enough labor to harvest the crop,” Bret explains to me. He then continues, “If we don’t have the necessary labor to harvest, our ability to grow the business is constricted. If our business growth is constricted, that means it prevents us from maximizing our contribution to the local, state, and national economy via reduced tax revenues and job creation."
Nature has been good to the company’s land this year, helping to produce healthy and excellent fields. The quality of the land is great, and the weather has been kind to production; however, with so much to be thankful for, the company is hoping to shed light on Texas’s agricultural needs as a whole.
“We also had Dante Galeazzi, President & CEO of Texas International Produce Association, as part of our tour. TIPA is the voice of the Texas produce industry and has been working hard to push for legislative action on workforce issues. Currently, the only program available to the industry is H-2A, which is expensive, cumbersome, slow, and riddled with red tape,” Bret shares.
The company looks to its approximately 350 peak season employees in Texas as it makes gallant strides towards changing the the state's agriculture industry—this is just one way that the company is pushing forward the discussions on complex issues so that its business and those like it can continue to grow and bring the healthy and safe fruits and vegetables to the consumers who love them.