But further refinement of them was quashed at U. of California in the early '70's at the insistence of the UFW to Jerry Brown and the CA Dems (i.e., the program was de-funded). Why? Because the UFW knew even then that farm work in California is nothing more than a make work program for Mexico.
More interesting info. I was up in Stockton in the early 70s when Chavez pulled the workers out on strike at the height of harvest season. The brains at U.C. Davis cames up with a mechanized asparagus cutter in three weeks(!). A reporter from Texas told me that Chavez was against importing illegals since it lowered the already-low farm wages. Don't know if he was in power at the time you mention - maybe he "saw the light" and stopped fighting. This looks like an area Arnold should look into.
During the NAFTA discussions I talked with a small farm machinery manufacturer who had a wall full of plaques for his inventions. One of 'em was to automatically peel the oranges for those you see in cans. That blew my mind until he told me about his machine to pluck stems and leaves from strawberries for God's sake.
Couldn't sell the machines as the Mexicans had 12 people to a table pulling them out by hand. He visited some of their sweat shops and one manager said that they actually paid only two or three of those people the 12c an hour wage. The others were kids and grandparents who worked for free - that was the deal if the parents wanted a job. The guy told him it would cost more to wash down his machine at the end of the day than to pay manual labor. No wonder they come up here.
Sounds like we have some pretty inventive people who are being suppressed by the farm labor organizations and the governments, state and federal, turn a blind eye to that situation also. Probably something Tancredo should start talking about to stir the pot even more.
I'll look; I was working from memory of another article that detailed the development of those machines.
The brains at U.C. Davis
That was from the program that I alluded to. It was state sponsored. It's true that Chavez was against illegal immigration (hell, Samuel Gompers and the Democratic party were some of the authors of the 1924 act for just that reason), but he was also against mechanization since he wanted to preserve the existing jobs. I believe that in the early 70's, the number of farmworkers was at an all time low, because the commodity crops of the time had been relatively optimized in terms of the planting/harvesting cycle. I may be wrong, but I believe that the growth of high value boutique crops like strawberries and asparagus is what has required so much new labor. I know that's the case here in Santa Cruz County.
But like you pointed out, even "high value" crops like strawberries could probably be mechanized. I don't know that the price would change all that much -- the weather and soil are probably the determining factor in the value.
I do know that using people instead of machines is a luddite ideology that only still exists in California farms and Chinese factories. And the Chinese are probably going to mechanize...don't know about California...
Has a good paragraph on how Chavez and Dems shut down UC Davis.