Immigration and agriculture: where the policies hit the ground

immigration seal
(image: New Mexico Independent)

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.

From the Farm Press article:

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.

BusinessWeek reported similar findings earlier this week, as did The Christian Science Monitor.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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