Farmers from Georgia to California say they have a problem: not enough workers to harvest their crops. It’s estimated anywhere from half to three-quarters of farm workers are in this country illegally, and some growers say that President Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric has made a chronic worker shortage even worse. . . . What’s behind the farmworker shortage? [One] Factor: The children of migrants are upwardly mobile, and are leaving the fields behind. . . . [Farm manager quoted]: “I was very disappointed that Michigan voted for [Trump]. We need someone who supports agriculture in this country, someone who supports diversity. . . . Without migrant workers to pick the crops . . . there wouldn’t be food. It’s just as simple as that. – ‘They’re Scared’: Immigration Fears Exacerbate Migrant Farmworker Shortage, npr.com, Melissa Block, 9/27/17. [Link]
Fact Check: Some claim that illegal aliens are essential to our food production, so therefore we cannot afford to deport them. Some might draw such a conclusion from this article. For the sake of truth and clarity, however, it’s important to note that less than five percent of illegal aliens are involved in agriculture. Thus we could send more than 95 percent of them home, and it would have no effect on food production at all.
But are illegal aliens so necessary for agriculture that we have to have them stay? No, there are other alternatives. One partial remedy is for growers to improve wages and working conditions so that more Americans will do farm work. Illegal aliens really don’t like the wages and conditions either, which is why they or their children take other work as soon as they can. As they move on this sets up an unending cycle of new illegal aliens coming to replace the previous ones.
Another possibility for the immediate future is employment of foreign guest workers. We already have a federal program, the H-2A provision, which allows growers to bring in guest workers from abroad. Many growers complain, however, that H-2A is cumbersome to use. If that is the case, one wonders why they don’t invest at least as much time in lobbying to reform it as they do in lobbying against effective steps against illegal immigration. Could it be that it’s simply more convenient for them to hire illegal aliens than it is to abide by any kind of government regulation? Or do some of them, like the one quoted in the NPR article, want “diversity” as much as they want workers?
More and more, Americans are tired of illegal immigration, and this a reality that growers must accept. They should consider further steps to end their dependency on illegal aliens. One might be to raise crops that are less labor intensive than the one they’re raising now. Another with the best potential of all for solving the problem is employing machinery to plant and harvest. The technology of farm mechanization is rapidly advancing, and can now accomplish tasks once thought impossible.
Reliance on illegal immigration for farm work is holding back this advance of technology which will make food production more efficient than ever. It’s time for this impediment to end.