Worker shortage threatens state crops

August 6, 2012


A plaintive, years-long cry from California farmers worried about an adequate supply of harvest laborers now is being heard statewide as the prediction – often scorned by critics — begins to materialize.

And while the looming shortage might not affect San Luis Obispo County farmers, vintners, and ranchers as much as in other parts of the state, there could be a real impact here, according to Farm Bureau legislative analyst Joy Fitzhugh.

“There are a number of farmers who have been telling me that they are having trouble finding labor. People just aren’t coming into California as much,” said Fitzhugh. “However, we don’t really  have the kind of crops in this county that require large numbers of field workers all at the same time.”

Fitzhugh cited numerous issues with which migrant workers and their prospective employers must deal: “Workers are having a bit of a problem being able to take on the jobs because of the new (immigration) regulations,” she said. “If the laborers don’t have absolute (proof of credentials), our guys are reluctant to hire them.”

Skilled packers and pickers are in short supply statewide, but still some people have criticized harvest concerns as an attempt to win sympathy for relaxation of immigration and labor laws. But strong evidence exists to show that the state’s farm workforce has shrunk dramatically. Additionally, the remaining pool of workers is aging.

Along with more rigid regulations regarding immigration and hiring of migrant workers, more crop harvesting is being done with new, specialized forms of machinery. Imported crops are increasingly common.

It’s not easy to track changes in agricultural workforce numbers because jobs are seasonal and most workers are in the United States illegally.

Although wine workers generally earn more money than most farm laborers, their numbers are thinning, too. One Northern California vintner told the San Jose Mercury News last week that he and other growers are looking to expensive mechanized harvesters to prepare for a future when too few workers are available.

The Pew Hispanic Center reported this year that the problem starts at the U.S.-Mexico border, where net migration fell to zero this year. A recent study by the organization found that the number of people intercepted at the border dropped 70%, from more than 1 million in 2005 to 286,000 in 2011. Drug-related violence and increased costs to smugglers are having an impact on immigration.

A former skeptic of the dire employment predictions is changing his tune. Five years ago he scoffed at the fears, but now UC Davis labor economist Phil Martin admits the farming community is in “a period of uncertainty.”

Fitzhugh said the local farm bureau is part of a statewide lobbying effort to bring back the so-called “green card” program.

“Although the term might not be politically correct now, the ‘green card’ program let them come into the country and then leave (when work was finished),” she said. “That is what the agricultural community has been hoping for, and has actually been lobbying for, to get that program back — because it worked.”


However one feels about foreign farm workers working our fields without legal documentation, the truth is…and with few exceptions… infinitely few of the massively unemployed (on welfare or not on welfare) are stepping up to “take back our jobs.”

The US imported Mexican laborers by the thousands to replace American men in the field during World War II. Following this, it was our government who cultivated the problem we’re in now. (If you lived in an impoverished Third World country, wouldn’t you seize the opportunity to support your family?)

It cannot be overstated: Our own government has enabled illegal migration of Hispanic nationals like a drug-pushing kingpin through doublespeak, failed policies and anemic enforcement.

Don’t get me wrong. The Bracero Program was by far the best idea in concept. However, the US government was miserably inept in not regulating (largely Caucasian) farm owners to maintain their workplaces in a safe, respectable and hygienic manner. What did the government allow and what did American labor camps provide instead for a day’s work?

– Scant wages

– Mistreatment (verbal/physical abuse, including intimidation, threats of deportation)

– No bathroom facilities, water, first aid (basic human necessities)

– Child slavery (entire families work the fields for extended hours)

– Dangerous work practices (implementation of the backbreaking short hoe and drenching parents and children with DDT delousing and dangerous pesticides in the field via dusting and aircraft)

The efforts of activists rid the industry of these things, but to a limited degree. But again, for the undocumented worker, not much has changed, lest the workers and their families become deported.

Do individuals have a moral responsibility not to rip off the government? Of course they do! But darned if our own government and the unscrupulous of American crop owners aren’t historically at fault for not establishing virtual and physical boundaries to prevent this problem.


– We have fields that need planting and harvesting.

– The government has wanted it both ways. But the reality is, we’ve become what we’ve allowed.

The Gimlet Eye

Just more testimony that nothing good comes from government. They destroy everything they touch.

The Gimlet Eye

I beg your pardon; this report does not specifically reference illegal aliens. The out-of-control spending remains a big problem, however.

The Gimlet Eye

The “workers” may not be worth it. Look at the problems they leave in their wake:

Massive IRS Fraud Scheme Allows Illegals to Grab Billions


My daughter was a victim of a scam like this, she was finally able to prove that she hadn’t been working for a auto body shop in the Fresno area and at the same time holding a job at a KMart in San Diego, when she was four years old, but it took YEARS. This was discovered when she filed her taxes for the first time for the year 2001 and was finally resolved in 2007.

The Gimlet Eye

Nothing like a few friends in high places:

The IRS has been paying refunds on fraudulent tax refunds estimated at $5 billion per year. These payments go to thieves who have stolen others’ identities. [A single address in Michigan was used for 2,137 tax returns.] Yahoo Posted 2012 Aug 4


I go past fields and see streams of teabaggers in their tri-corner hats , vests, and jodpuhrs.

it delights my colonial heart to see these serfs so happy in their labors !

They must be so happy to be working at piece rate for subsistence wages !


Wait…..( those are not teabaggers ? they are [[[shudder]]]] Illegals ? )

Where are all those fat and happy Teabaggers then ?


I worked in the fields from the time I could walk to the very early teenage years of my life. What is your point again?


“point” = tinfoil hat.


IRS not helping the situation:

“Internal Revenue Service supervisors discouraged employees from rooting out fraud in a program that assigns taxpayer-identification numbers to non-U.S. residents and others who don’t qualify for a Social Security number, according to a report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. ~~~WSJ

“The report shines a spotlight on just one corner of the tax system, a segment that consisted of 2.9 million returns last year and resulted in $6.8 billion in refunds being sent out to people with taxpayer-identification numbers. ”

Who needs to work in the fields when they can get a TIN and a refund from the IRS?


I doubt those who take advantage of Obama’s “Deferred Action” Plan will be doing so to pick veggies and do farm labor.

“The Obama administration has publicly said they expected about 800,000 illegals to apply for deferred action during the first year of implementation.

However, according to DHS documents, the government actually expects 1,041,300 illegals to apply.

That’s because the administration has expanded the pool of eligible applicants. Initially, illegals were required to have graduated from an American high school or earned a GED. But now the government will allow applicants so long as they re-enroll in school by the date of their application.”


I hope an updated form of the Bracero Program returns. Save for the exceptions, I don’t see a drove of the more able-bodied, unemployed citizens (displaced workers, homeless or otherwise) rushing to obtain work in the fields.

Imagine if no one reported to work at all to picks wine grapes, strawberries, lettuce and broccoli?

And, baby, it’s harvest time!


Don’t you think we could put some of the homeless to work. Win Win for all.


Arbeit macht frei

Spirit Filled

Almost but not quite

The Gimlet Eye

Excess of illegal aliens and unrestricted immigration threatens US taxpayers:

Nearly half of long-term U.S. immigrants are on welfare…