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Where are the Farmworkers?

August 13, 2015
Plain English Version


Farm work is hard work. It is usually low wage.

The wages paid to farm laborers reflect the economy. They also show how immigration affects agriculture.

In California, workers are scarce. When they do not come to the farms, billions of dollars’ worth of fruits and vegetable are left on the ground to rot.

Wages are going up. Hourly pay of $12 to $14 is not uncommon. Health care is improving. Community schools are opening. Housing conditions are getting better. Employers are competing for workers.

This is not to say that all is well. It is still a tough job under hard conditions.

There are three sources of farm labor. The first is American workers. Farmers say they quit after a day or two in the fields. The second source is guest workers. They come here on H2-A visas. There is a shortage of these experienced workers. The third source is migrants coming over the border without legal papers. Better border patrol and fewer people trying to enter the country are reducing the number of these workers.

Another problem for the farmers is the improving economy in the United States. There are more chances for jobs.

Usually, higher wages solve the shortage of farm workers problem. But most farm workers have to go through red tape to get the H2-A visa. Using workers who have to sneak into the country to be hired does not assure a steady workforce.

The American visa programs include:


Big bureaucracies run all of these programs. They all create industries to make them work for buyers and sellers.

Undocumented migrants and their legal status are important. It is not the only thing reform should be about. It should be about the whole visa system. The political will of the nation says this is not likely to happen.

Source: The Wall Street Journal August 12, 2015


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