Skip to comments.Farm workforce shrivels
Posted on 08/06/2007 8:22:21 AM PDT by AngelesCrestHighway
Plenty of plums but not nearly enough workers to pick them has farmers anxious about harvest time in central California's San Joaquin Valley. Worries are similar for apple orchard operators in Washington. It is 100-plus degrees and climbing, the sun is blasting through the orchard's thick leafy blanket, and the pickers, their shirts soaked with sweat, want to call it a day. "Vamanos," they shout to their crew boss, who wants to keep them working beyond their 8 hours. He finally lets them go, but reluctantly. There are lots more plums to pick because there are fewer pickers here in the nation's fruit basket. Since the crew started a day late and is operating with only a dozen hands instead of the usual 20, heaps of luscious-looking fruit likely will soon rot on their trees. Recounting similar scenes across the U.S., farmers predict a swelling labor shortage as harvests roll from field to field, from picking raisins in coming days in California to apples in the next few weeks in Washington state and Michigan and New England. From California to Texas to Michigan to New York, farmers blame the tight labor on tougher U.S. immigration measures that have blocked much of the seasonal surge of workers who come north for the harvests. The growers and their allies say they can no longer wait for the right political moment to resurrect the drive for immigration reform that collapsed this summer in the Senate.
(Excerpt) Read more at chicagotribune.com ...
beat me by 2 minutes.
Americans are willing and able to do this work for a good wage. The farmers just aren;t willing to pay it.
If we DO need more agricultural workers - fine - raise the quotas for legal immigrants who are screened and checked and want to come here and be Americans. The hell with the rest of them and those who employ them.
Another think they might consider is a little Yankee ingenuity - like the kind that created the mechanical corn harvester and combine. But with slave labor there is no inducement to explore technological advance.
I did this as a summer job as a teenager. Many college students used to work in the wheat and other harvests.
Yes, I picked strawberries, raspberries, and pickling cucumbers every summer, when I was 13, 14, and 15. My three younger sisters all picked for more years than me (two started at 12, the third at 10). The youngest was allowed to start early, because she had dependable older siblings, and ended up getting very good at it, making a lot of summer money.
Let me assure you that stoop labor (strawberries and cucumbers) is harder than stand up labor (raspberries and orchard work), but it generally pays better.
Interestingly, the farm labor busses always stopped in middle class neighborhoods. I asked a bus driver, once, why they didn't go to poor neighborhoods, and was told that few kids would get on the busses there, and that most of those who did, were poor workers.
I understand that the state where I grew up has since outlawed this kind of labor by those who are under the age of sixteen, but it was a wonderful opportunity for my sisters and I since we couldn't get regular jobs at an early age. It also made me really appreciate my first minimum wage job, which didn't pay as well, but was much easier and not seasonal.
I don't think many of the people here who reflexively claim "we don't need immigrant labor" have any real direct experience like yours with such situations.
Actually, I think having the luxury time to pontificate on FR automatically indicates that you're past the "will work hard for food" stage of your life.
It would have been 1967 when I started. These kids could do 10 bucks worth a day. I’m not kidding. They were serious. No eating and jumping around like the rest of us, they PICKED. Their mother would pack icewater in thermoses and they would go for 10 hours on a peanut butter sandwich. By my third year, I learned that I could do it too if I stayed by the girl my own age and we just sang, laughed and picked.
50.00 a week doesn’t sound like much but when a candy bar cost 10 cents, it’s a lot.
You’re right about the criminals now though. My kids wouldn’t go without me today.
I do. They have moved on to better jobs like carpenters, roofers, electrician's helpers, etc. Pay's a little better and you learn a trade.
So $10 a day in 1967 is $60 a day in 2006 dollars. Even at 10 hours a day it’s more than minimum wage. And you probably didn’t pay income tax on it, so you take the whole amount home. Working 5 days a week for a summer like that would be $5040 in today’s dollars for a summer tax-free.
Not bad for a kid for summer work. I saw advertisements at my college for that kind of money that acted like $5000 for the summer was a big deal.
When you rely on an illegal activity to execute your harvest you shouldn’t be surprised when it isn’t around when you need it. Furthermore, you deserve to lose your butt to balance for your previously ill gotten gains from knowingly utilizing an illegal resource.
I have no sympathy for them. I worked my tail off for farmers when I was young, my brother only 7 years my younger couldn’t get the same jobs for minimum wage because of illegal labor.
Hope they have their land foreclosed on them so I can utilize some of my resources and execute some payback on the cheap SOBs.
There are TONS of welfare recip[ients in the San Joaquin Valley, and guess what? Alot of those welfare recipients are illegals collecting on their anchor babies.
You can’t get near the welfare office here. Everything is in Spanish and everyone that works there is bilingual for a reason.
What’s really interesting is that at the time I just figured that’s how life was. Thank goodness I know differently now!
Seems to me like the going rate was about a dollar an hour. I remember for the cucumber shed it was a dollar an hour and you could work as many hours as you could stand. No OSHA in those days! I can’t recall if they kept out income tax and social security. Seems to me like a couple of the bigger employers did, but the farmers who were parents of my school friends just paid us in cash.
I was the envy of the town when I got the job with the crop duster! I would mix the spray, load it on the plane and then wait around until he got back for the next load. To get water for the spray I had to drive the tank truck down to the creek and pump it from there with a gasoline driven pump.
stop paying welfare and you will get your pickers
I didn't see that! Too funny!!
I see an abundance of farmworkers around here. I see 40 to 50 cars parked alongside fields, with plenty of workers in each of the fields. There is no shortage of workers.
14.00 dollars an hour equates to and extra 15 cents for lettuce. Addiction to quasi-slave labor is a bitch!!
“The 3 month summer vacation is a relic of our old agrarian calendar. The kids are supposed to help on the farm for those 3 months.”
Indeed. It is amazing that while it is expected that my kids are expected to get summer jobs (we don’t need the money — but they do need the experience and discipline), there are some suburban parents who actually won’t let their kids get jobs!
One issue in most sectors of our economy is for at least a generation there has been more people then jobs. So hiring managers have always kept wages low, and if one person quits you just hire a new body.
But now as our population gets older we’re just entering an era where companies will finally have to compete with each other to get workers. Its a real advantage for my family’s accounting firm.. none of the other firms will pay more, they are stuck in the 80’s and 90’s when you could pay rock bottom wages and always find someone more desperate.
Its just not like that anymore. So my family always pays more and is extra generous so we always have good workers, we never have problems finding someone:).
Its basically a foreign concept for business owners that they would have to pay more per hour. I guaruntee if this farmer paid 2 dollars an hour more then the next farm over, he’d be turning workers away. But its a paradigm shift and most people have trouble making those.
Next question: do American workers lose their jobs because the farm market does not buy enough equipment from the picking manufacturer? Or do the harvesting machines come from China?
Anyone who has never loaded watermelons all day long in the hot Georgia sun doesn’t know what their missing. The day starts off pretty good for the first few hours and then those melons get really heavy. We were having to pick them up off the ground and lift them up as high over our heads as we could. A guy in the trailer would reach down and get them from us. It was a killer job and I would be so sore when I first got up in the morning that I could barely walk.
The only reward we got was the opportunity to come back the next morning at daylight and do it again. If I remember right there was about 8 of us doing the loading from the ground and we would load a tractor trailer full each day. It was a big time watermelon farm.
I joined the Army to get some relief from farm work and basic training was so much easier that I thought I was on vacation.
I picked weeds from cotton fields in Alabama when I was a teenager. The line that we have to have migrant workers is crap.
As far as I’m concerned, let the costs of fruits and vegetables go up if necessary. It isn’t worth selling out our sovereignty for.
“The problem here is that these people dont want to go through legal channels.”
You nailed it. The problem isn’t a labor shortage, its a dollar shortage... farmers wanting to harvest on the cheap with illegal Mexican workers.
We would throw the melon up to the guy in the truck. When the truck was full two of us would drive to New Orleans and the market.
Funny though, at the time I don’t recall feeling like I was working all that hard or that it was all that hot. It was just what we did. It got us ready for the start of football season as sort of a pre-training experience!