Won’t You Be My Labor?
Immigration crackdown exacerbates organic-farm labor shortage
Organic farmers are desperately struggling to find workers, caught between rising demand and an ever-more-severe labor shortage. More than half of the 1.8 million farmworkers in the U.S. are here illegally, and increased border patrols have reduced the number of immigrants trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Service-sector jobs in the city are easy to find, and the work required by organic farms — pulling up weeds by hand — is backbreaking. “No one wants to do this work,” says California organic ag foreman Eber Diaz. “I’ve never seen a situation where it was so difficult to find people.” Traditional farmers can get by with up to 20 percent fewer workers by wiping out weeds with pesticides, but for organic farmers, it’s human labor or nothing. The situation has made immigration reformers out of many organic farmers; they’re pushing for a guest worker program like the one currently stalled in D.C. As for actually paying workers what the work is worth, well, what are we, communists?
Get Grist in your inbox