Farmers Suffer From a Shortage of Workers, but Native-Born Americans Don’t Want the Jobs

Farmland in California’s Central Valley, where the lack of workers is becoming a serious problem. (Flickr / CC 2.0)

California’s Central Valley, the hub of the state’s agricultural business, provides more than half the produce grown in the United States, and in 2016 the region overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump. Now, the farmers who helped put Trump in office are experiencing a critical shortage of farmworkers—and nobody is stepping up to take the jobs.

In a recent Los Angeles Times piece, reporters Natalie Kitroeff and Geoffrey Mohan explore the problem of the lack of farmworkers and the ways Trump’s immigration and deportation policies are starting to hurt California farmers.

They write:

So far, the results aren’t encouraging for farmers or domestic workers.

Farmers are being forced to make difficult choices about whether to abandon some of the state’s hallmark fruits and vegetables, move operations abroad, import workers under a special visa or replace them altogether with machines.

Wages are rising as the labor pool tightens, and some employers have begun offering retirement benefits such as 401(k) packages, Kitroeff and Mohan report.

“But the raises and new perks have not tempted native-born Americans to leave their day jobs for the fields,” they continue. “Nine in 10 agriculture workers in California are still foreign born, and more than half are undocumented, according to a federal survey.”

In the article, a recruiter for a farm labor contracting company, Silverado, explains that the company has never had a white, American-born person take an entry-level farming job.

Noting the tough conditions and long workdays, an agricultural expert says, “You don’t need a deep analysis to understand why farm work wouldn’t be attractive to young Americans.”

Read the entire piece here.

—Posted by Emma Niles

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