One out of eight citizens are out of work in California, while farm jobs are going begging in spite of farmers launching a “take our jobs” campaign advising people how to apply online for work paying about $10 an hour. More Americans would apply for farm jobs if they were offered better pay and working conditions, according to the United Farm Workers.
Those calling for tougher immigration laws and the UFW claim that farmers have become accustomed to hiring undocumented workers who are willing to work for little, and now make up half the farm labor force. Legal immigrants make up a quarter of the farm labor. Those Americans who do get hired to do farm work often disappear quickly.
Farm work is often offered in remote locations which city dwellers find difficult to get to, and one solution would be to provide transportation from central cities with high unemployment to outlying farms. Another possibility would be to use prisoners incarcerated for minor offenses.
A shortage of farm labor will cause food prices to rise at a time when many people are out of work and may be receiving government assistance. It will also increase our dependence on imported food, which may not be up to FDA standards and could cause health problems, as has already happened.
Another effect of the farm labor shortage will be the continued disappearance of small family farms, which will either be abandoned or bought by large conglomerates whose management is far removed from the local community.
If an orderly immigration policy allowing temporary farm workers to do seasonal harvest jobs when needed is not achievable, the only alternative is to use more automated machinery to increasingly replace human labor, which could be an expensive proposition in a state like California with severe budget constraints.