Immigration, Labor

Paying More for Your Salsa, Will Broken Immigration System = Higher Food Prices?

From, Andrea Gray, SF Fusion Food Examiner, 30 May 2011.

Migrant workers are needed to keep food prices stable (Credits: Bob Jagendorf )

Migrant workers are needed to keep food prices stable (Credits: Bob Jagendorf )

Wait for it… California could be next. In Georgia, farmers are reporting that “they are starting to feel the effects of a tough crackdown on illegal immigration — a sudden dearth of migrant workers needed to bring in their harvests. Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, said the labor pool of produce pickers has shrunk by 30 to 50 percent since passage of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act on April 20,” according to a Yahoo News report this past Saturday. One owner,  Melinda James, of OSAGE Farms in north Georgia says she only has 26-28 lined up of the “about 150 workers [we need] when we get going in June”.

With ICE raids and crackdowns on employers of illegal workers both on the rise; add the fact that California’s illegal immigrant population has dropped by by 250,000, the nation’s by nearly 1 million, as reported in February in the LA Times in February. Much of the drop, the sharpest in three decades, is due to a weakended US economy which means workers arereturning to their homelands (primarly Mexico) or simply not coming.  It all adds up to potential endangered crops, something we saw hints of as early as 2007, when said Luawanna Hallstrom of the California Farm Bureau likened the situation to, “a time bomb just ready to go off.”

Nationally, it has been estimated more than half of all farm workers are illegal immigrants. In California, that numer is closer to 75%. The California Department of of Food and Agriculture has called for a sweeping effort to protect immigrant farm workers — including those who traveled to the U.S. illegally — in a plan called AgVision2030, asserting that immigrant labor are vital to the state’s farm economy, which affirms a commonly held view among immigrant-rights advocates — that migrant laborers, many of them from Mexico, do jobs that U.S. citizens are unwilling to do.

“Coordinated efforts at recruiting domestic labor have largely failed, despite high unemployment in many agricultural communities,” the plan states. “Thus, an estimated 75 percent of California’s agricultural workforce is foreign-born, primarily Mexican, and about half of the workers are believed to be unauthorized under current immigration laws.” The plan goes on to state that the current visa system for farm workers is “cumbersome and ineffective.”

Angela Chan, a staff lawyer at the Asian Law Caucus, said in an email message. “We cannot continue to ignore this basic truth that immigrant workers are vital to our economy,” and farmers confirm a shortage of workers means food gets left to rot. Farms must simply leave fruit on the vine and fields unharvested.

Source:, “Paying More for Your Salsa, Will Broken Immigration System = Higher Food Prices?” by Andrea Gray, 30 May 2011.


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