September 22, 2012

The Volokh Conspiracy's got Crop Rot Fever!

It's that time of the year again, and so the agricultural experts over at the Volokh Conspiracy are agitated that crops are rotting in the fields:
The Bitter Harvest of Immigration Restrictions

20 comments:

Jehu said...

You know, the question of what fraction of crops are left to rot in the fields every year under 'normal conditions' is actually a pretty good one. You see, I had a short gig as a sharecropper this summer in a super high-trust area of Oregon (the farmer had a deal where you could pick as many blueberries as you like, and give him half, you kept the other half). After picking a bucket or two of said berries and divvying them between the farmer and I, we chatted for a while in the shade.
In response to my questioning, he explained to me that the way berry crops generally work is kinda like a bell curve. Some of the blooms start earlier---but there's the risk of a late frost for them. Most start in the fat part of the bell curve, and a few hedge the risk of a nasty spring by trading against the risk of an early freeze in the fall. So all of the berries aren't actually available at the same time at optimum ripeness. He explained to me that at some point late in the season, he doesn't even charge people for 'gleanings'. Since most berries work like this, it's probably not unusual for 10% or so of them to 'rot in the fields' or 'be eaten by birds'.
The existence of so many 'u pick it' berry farms should be enough to disabuse anyone of the notion that white people won't pick fruit though, as should viewing a few episodes of 'Dirty Jobs', all of which are generally a lot nastier than picking berries.

Anonymous said...

Somin seems to have deleted a huge comment thread calling him out.

Norville Rogers said...

U-pick-it farms ought to appeal to the same adolescent minds of the libertoid space cadets who sing of Costco, Amazon and middleman slaying. But they do seem pretty dense on this topic

Beecher Asbury said...

Imperial County, CA seems to have plenty of able bodies for picking crops.

The state’s highest unemployment rate in AUGUST was in Imperial County where 29.9 percent of the adult workforce was unemployed. That is the same jobless rate that the county had in July.

Eighty percent of the 175,000 residents are Hispanic. Given its location, how many of these are illegal, amnestied, or descendants of the aforementioned? Shouldn't crop picking be their forte?

Why do the elites insist on lecturing us on supply and demand and the mechanisms of market pricing in every endeavor that favors them, but conveniently discover it does not work when it comes to blue collar and unskilled labor?

Anonymous said...

Okay, here's what the original article describes as the problem:

"...grow and pack over 6 million boxes of apples..."

If they can land a man on the moon or pick up a rock on Mars you'd think they could solve this problem... and you'd be right, although it might take a few more years to widely deploy (but think of the impact all those cheap 32-bit embedded smartphone computers are going to have on robotics, which requires a tremendous amount of embedded computing power):


In the last few years, Belgian farmers have experienced problems with finding reliable seasonal workers for harvesting choice fruit, including apples. ...

Automation Centre for Research and Education (ACRO) Institute developed a robotic apple harvester. ACRO is a spin-off company...

At the moment the picking machine picks an apple every 8 s but this will be reduced to 6 or 5 s after the pick season in 2007.


Then we have this:

... sponsored by the Comprehensive Automation for Specialty Crops partnership...

We found bruising at or below the level that was occurring with hand-picked apples, picked the traditional way. The machine has worked very well in that regard.

...this process eliminates damage to the fruit in the picking bag,..


And furthermore, while those wedded to the past might think the Chinese are all about cheap labor, the Chinese are not going to left in the dust on this one.

There's a lot of room for progress here, since due to underfunding this area is an open field.

Those Oregon folks are way behind the times. Reliance on the cheapest stoop labor is surely going to be a big win for them, I'm sure we all realize.

Richard A. said...

Labor shortages are caused by employers underpaying their employees. This is econ 101 stuff. You can show this with a plot of the supply and demand curves--wages on the vertical axis, quantity on the horizontal axis. Our elites act like a bunch of econ 101 flunkies, but I suspect they know this and have simply sold out to cheap labor interests.

Anonymous said...

Here is an interesting youtube video showing a demonstration of a new labor-saving apple harvesting machine developed in Michigan.

Lugash said...

Crop rot? More like brain rot.

Anonymous said...

Back in the day I picked berries in Oregon. At the time they weren't very observant of child labor laws. I was out in the fields at age 11 or 12 with all my elementary school buddies having berry fights and sometimes working. The farmers had old school buses they'd drive around to pick up the kids in the morning.

I think if wages went up by not all that much you'd get some of the more adventurous hipsters out working instead of loitering around the coffee shop. I always thought it beat flipping burgers at Mickey D's.

Anonymous said...

First time in my life that I've ever heard of fruit pickers being described as 'skilled labor'.
Well, I suppose these days 'skilled' is a flexible term meaning anything the author wants it to mean.When I was a boy, 'skilled' had a specific meaning - it was restricted to craftsmen working in industrial occupations who needed years of training in order to perform their trade, ie the idea was no oone could do their job with only cursory instructions, and thus the appelation of 'skilled' worker was highly sought after.
I suppose now that industry has collapsed and precious few white journalists had parents who worked with their hands - or know a rip saw from a cross-cut saw - the word has become so debased as to be virtually meaningless, rather like the way college degrees have become meaningless.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe for one moment that Belgium has the slighest difficulty in finding shed loads of fruit pickers.
Just send out the call and half the EU (the half that was the former Soviet bloc), would be at the Belgian doorstep in an instant.
- And what's more, they'll take the train back home again, having earned enough money to live for the rest of the year.

dearieme said...

Farmers will move heaven and earth to avoid paying their workers a market wage.

See: Roman Empire, Europe after the Black Death, the USA (southern states of) prior to the War of Southern Secession, etc. etc.

Bumbling American said...

It's hilarious how far back this line of thinking goes. I recently picked up a young-adult book from the early '60s to read with my son, one of the "Three Investigators" series (California teens who work as detectives for Alfred Hitchcock for complicated reasons). They're looking into spooky mishaps at a vineyard, and the owner's kid frets to them that the grapes will rot on the vines because Mexican laborers have been scared away by stories of the "Green Ghost." I wish I could say the kid was the young Victor Davis Hanson, but alas.

BA

Anonymous said...

In the last few years, Belgian farmers have experienced problems with finding reliable seasonal workers for harvesting choice fruit, including apples... Automation Centre for Research and Education (ACRO) Institute developed a robotic apple harvester. ACRO is a spin-off company... At the moment the picking machine picks an apple every 8 s but this will be reduced to 6 or 5 s after the pick season in 2007.

8 seconds doesn't sound so bad to me, but if you fit it with some infrared cameras [or if you get lucky, and have some cloudless nights under a full moon during harvest season], then, unlike humans, the robot can just keep picking all night long.

Which [effectively] turns "8 seconds" into "4 seconds".

Anonymous said...

Somin seems to have deleted a huge comment thread calling him out.

He's a pretty typical libertarian, in other words.

With very few exceptions (Hit and Run) libertarian blogs are some of the absolute worst on the web when it comes to allowing different ideas. "You vill think what we tell you to think!"

pat said...

I'm wondering, does any marijuana rot in the fields?

Albertosaurus

pat said...

I'm afraid Jehu has confused a "Bell Curve" - which is a frequency distribution - with a similar looking Time Series distribution.

This is a common enough error. It is basis of much of the sloppy thinking about "Peak Oil". See Beyond Oil: The View from Hubbert's Peak by Kenneth S. Deffeyes for another example of this mistake.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

Believe me, there is no one cheaper then farmers. They just won't pay a reasonable wage to hire people.

ben tillman said...

It's hilarious how far back this line of thinking goes. I recently picked up a young-adult book from the early '60s to read with my son, one of the "Three Investigators" series....

What a great series that was!

Anonymous said...

I loved the Three Investigators when I was a kid. A few years ago I was mixing a business with pleasure trip in Europe and arranged to meet some distant relatives in Germany, where I discovered that the Three Investigators have remained hugely popular.