Immigration Rules Leave Apples Rotting on the Trees

Attempting to actually comply with government regulations makes it impossible to make money from orchards


The apple market is booming in Washington State, as farmers have seen an increase of 50 percent of fruit shipped to keep up with skyrocketing demand. As other apple-producing regions of the country struggle with meager harvests following poor weather, this year's harvest should be especially profitable – if Washington farmers can find the workers they need.

That is a big if. The overwhelmingly Hispanic workforce for the apple harvest already has 13,000 more participants this year than in 2011, but it's not enough to satisfy the increased demand. "I'm down 40 percent from the labor I need," said Steve Nunley, manager of a 3,000-acre apple orchard near Wapato, Wash.