Availability of Farm Workers Just a Matter of Pay, Expert Says


I’m bringing this article to your attention because it debunks the myth that we need immigrant labor to harvest our crops because there are no Americans willing to do the work. 

The main thrust of the article is that, reportedly, some corporate farms are moving from the Southern California area across the border to Mexico, where there is a ready supply of cheap labor and where land is cheaper as well.  If you read the article closely, you’ll see that it’s less a matter of farms moving out and more a matter of simply expanding agriculture in other countries.  So what?  More power to ’em!

But further along in the article are the paragraphs of real significance:

Some experts argue that farmers simply refuse to raise U.S. wages to compete with other industries, something they say would help ease the labor crunch. As the United States heads into a recession, more native-born workers might consider agricultural work if wages were high enough, said Harley Shaiken, director of the University of California at Berkeley’s Center for Latin American Studies.

“Labor shortage always is a question of at what pay rate,” Shaiken said. “Very often, if the wages are artificially low, it will be very difficult to find a work force.”

Dr. Shaiken of UC Berkeley makes the same point I made in Five Short Blasts and have continued to make repeatedly on this blog.  Those who whine that “we can’t find any workers” are simply leaving out the next part of the sentence, which would read, “… at the rock-bottom wages that we’re willing to pay.”  Raise their pay to $20 an hour (which would have almost no effect on the price of produce) and there’d be a migration from the cities to the farms that would rival the migration chronicled in The Grapes of Wrath.

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