Immigration and agriculture: where the policies hit the ground
A study conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture and the University of California indicates that as the border between the United States and Mexico tightens and as immigration laws are more strictly enforced there could be dramatic changes in how American crops are harvested.
The study, reported on in Western Farm Press, says that the cost of running a farm will increase and farmers will rely more and more on mechanization as a way to make do with fewer workers.
Immigration reform and stricter enforcement of current immigration laws could significantly boost labor costs for California’s $20 billion fresh fruit, nut and vegetable crops, according to agricultural economists at UC Davis and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
This, in turn, would likely prompt the industry to adjust by increasing mechanization and introducing harvesting aids to boost laborers’ productivity, they predict. Imports may also rise.
“California’s produce industry depends on a constant influx of new, foreign-born laborers, and more than half of those are unauthorized laborers, primarily from Mexico,” says Phillip Martin, a professor of agricultural and resource economics and one of the nation’s leading authorities on agricultural labor.