California grape growers are facing a harvest crisis as stepped-up US immigration enforcement limits the labour pool.

Nat DiBuduo, CEO of Allied Grape Growers, held urgent meetings with influential US senator John McCain of Arizona and the US agriculture secretary Mike Johanns in June to lobby for change in US immigration laws.

‘Border security has been a focal point of immigration reform, and labour is going to be short throughout California,’ said Dibuduo, whose 600 growers supply about 100 winemakers throughout the state.

‘In recent years we have been using more illegal immigrants for work that US citizens do not want to do,’ DiBuduo told decanter.com.

But the problem is that labour costs are increasing.

‘We are having a hard time enticing people to do this hard work, so we are encouraging lawmakers to pass a comprehensive immigration bill that would include jobs, such as a supervised program for workers to come into the US and then go back to their country or be eligible for US citizenship.’

Written by Panos Kakaviatos