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Crawfish harvesters will suffer from labor shortage

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HENDERSON - Crawfish processing companies blame the federal government for a labor shortage that they say could end up hurting local fishermen. The companies depend on migrant workers to fill seasonal positions, but Louisiana has already met its federal quota for the number of guest workers it's allowed to have.

In years past, the processing companies hired their workers earlier in the year, but a cold start to the 2015 season meant companies put off hiring their workers until spring. However, the processors didn't realize this would cause them miss their opportunity to hire migrant workers.

Companies are required to hire migrant workers through a federal guest worker program which puts a limit on the number of laborers allowed to work in Louisiana throughout the year. So while the crawfish industry wasn't hiring, other industries took advantage of the program and the state met its quota.

Many of Henderson's crawfish processing companies are family-owned and operated, and most have used the guest worker program for about eight years. Owners say the regulations associated with the program are confusing, and many turn to agencies to hire their workers for them.

Company owners say work at the the plans are labor intensive, and there isn't enough interest among domestic workers to fill the seasonal positions. Owners claim the cost of hiring migrant workers is expensive, but the labor is reliable.

The owners say the people who will be hurt most by the labor shortage are local fishermen. The crawfish harvesters sell the majority of their catch to the processing plants, it's a system on which the fishermen depend. However, with no workers, the plants won't be buying many crawfish.

Henderson's leaders say the effects will be felt outside the community. Consumers hoping to buy Louisiana crawfish can expect to pay more for product in 2015.



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