The LA Times reports:
The Bush administration today plans to announce the most significant overhaul in two decades of the nation's agricultural guest worker program, in a bid to dramatically increase the number of legal foreign laborers available to harvest crops.
The revised regulations, many months in the works, would make it easier for growers to bring foreign workers to the United States and could alleviate the critical farmworker shortage largely caused by the U.S. crackdown on illegal border crossings. ...
The greatest effect would be in California, the nation's largest agricultural state. Some farmers have had to plow rotting crops back into their fields for lack of workers at harvest time. But lawmakers and growers said Tuesday that more than an administrative fix was needed to solve the state's chronic farm labor shortages.
Don't you love that phrase "chronic farm labor shortage"? It's like golf course owners complaining about the chronic daylight shortage that keeps golf courses closed an average of 12 hours per day and demanding that therefore the government must build them giant floodlights so they can stay open 24 hours per day. There is no farm labor shortage, chronic or otherwise, there's just a higher market wage than the wage the growers would prefer to pay (which, by the way, is $0.00 per hour).
And as for crops rotting in the fields, it's the nature of the agriculture business that each year a few of the many scores of different crops will grow in such abundance or at an inconvenient time or both that it's not worth harvesting some of them. In 2006, for example, it was pears. So, each fall, the growers' lobbyists issue press releases about how pears or brussels sprouts or avocados or whatever it is this year are "rotting in the fields" due to the horrible burden of having to pay stoop laborers in expensive California $8.50 an hour (or whatever it is) for seasonal work.
The more long-range appeal to growers of guest-worker plans is that it lets them bring in Asian peasants who are less able to sneak into the country than Mexican peasants, while allowing the Mexicans to continue to sneak in. (Did you know the population of Indonesia, for instance, is 235 million?) From the employers' standpoint, it's a double your pleasure, double your fun approach to the supply and demand determination of laborers' wages. And then once the flow of guest workers from, say, Indonesia gets started, their will be more illegal immigration from Indonesia too, since the guest workers' relatives will now have connections in America.