Well here we go again: farmers worried their source of cheap harvest labor might be drying up due to what is said to be the toughest state immigration law yet in Georgia, due to go into effect in July.
It seems that berry farmers there are having a hard time finding enough pickers and they think the reason may be that the new immigration law is scaring off some would-be Mexican or Latino workers, who may not be in the U.S. legally.
I’m getting this from a story to which I will provide a link in a second here. But first some observations:
It is difficult to impossible to get legal domestic labor (and read that white people — and no racism intended here, truly) for harvest work because the pay is relatively low, it is hard work that many are not used to or acclimated to (although they could get that way with a little effort), it is only temporary and not a career (generally), and existing social welfare programs provide a disincentive to do this kind of work — although, paradoxically, existing social programs and laws subsidize the work to some extent too for those who do it, to include illegal aliens (they get medical treatment and education for themselves and their children through tax dollars).
As I have often noted before, there was a time when non-Hispanics and people other than black people (often referred to as “white people” — again I am only describing, not trying to be racist) did back-breaking and low paying manual labor field work (and a few still do). But I think the Great Society programs of the 60s largely spelled an end to that.
I could go on and on about this subject, but I would rather not, really.
As long as there is a supply of relatively cheap labor, you cannot blame farmers, really, for using it. It makes good business sense. But if that source of labor was to dry up I don’t think the world would end. The farmers would go to Plan B.
In fact, in the afore-mentioned story, to which I still am going to provide a link, it notes that one type of berries can be picked mechanically, but some (much) of the product is lost in the process.
But that is the way things go. Where manual labor has become too expensive or impractical or impossible to find, mechanization tends to take over and it will continue to do that.
For those things that just cannot be done mechanically then hand labor will be found — if the price is right. Labor does and should have value.
The threat from the agriculture community, its form of blackmail, is that if they have to pay more, things will cost more for the consumer. Well, what else is new? Anyway, we can survive without blackberries or we can go to one of those pick-it-yourself fruit stands or we can go to a farmers market where a small-time grower has harvested it him- (or her) self — and this goes for almost all food commodities.
(I should note too that in some cases crops may not be raised anymore in certain areas if labor cannot be found, but if there is a demand for them, they will be grown somewhere else — yes where the labor is cheaper, no doubt.)
I’m really getting tired of hearing the whining about the shortage of cheap labor.
I do realize, though, that even if the wages were upped, it would still be hard to find people to do manual labor, often paid by the piece rate (out of understandable practicality). That is where you have to face reality and look at that Plan B (or perhaps Plan C, just quit) .
Maybe if we were not so liberal in our social welfare programs (and I am referring to everything from Aid to Families with Dependent Children and Social Security Disability — sometimes/often granted for questionable disabilities –such as an allergic reaction to work — just kidding, kind of — to extended unemployment and so on) we would have a larger pool of labor for the less desirable jobs.
But do we want to encourage or force whole groups of people to make a career out of nowhere employment that requires government subsidy in order for the people to have shelter and medical care?
It seems to me that in agriculture the real small farmers can do a lot of their own work — employ family members — and in the larger outfits, they just have to face the reality of the supply and demand of the domestic labor market. I do not think we should have to rely on the illegal alien labor market that eats up tax dollars with the social service demands (even though some amount of tax money may be derived from it), and the pull down of wages it creates for potential domestic workers (and yes, the domestic labor force will work if that is the only way to make a living), along with the criminals that sneak in with legitimate, albeit illegal workers.
Sometimes people looking for extra money, to include young people, have done harvest work and will do it.
Yes, please read the story I mentioned and view the accompanying video (if I do this correctly), I found it interesting.
And my contention continues to be that almost all harvest labor could be near totally or totally mechanized and will be once the supply of hand labor disappears.
Associations representing farmers (or purporting to do so, such as Farm Bureau) spend a lot of time lobbying for cheap labor and for federal officials to look the other way when it comes to hiring illegal aliens. They would do better to come up with a way to devise some type of program that would make farm labor available, such as temporary guest workers and so on. They could tax themselves for this. They might even do it essentially outside of government (of course with legal permission).