September 27, 2013

Crops Rotting in the Fields, Part MLXXVII

From the AP via Huffington Post, and it's not anywhere near as dumb as CRitF Parts I through MLXXVI. Unlike almost all the annual Harvest Crisis articles of the past, Gosia Wozniacka's article seems to imply that stoop laborers being paid more is, when you stop and think about it, a good thing, not a bad thing. Perhaps there is hope for less credulous journalism on immigration-related matters?
Farmers Face Labor Shortages As Workers Find Other Jobs 
By GOSIA WOZNIACKA 09/26/13 02:10 PM ET EDT AP 
FRESNO, Calif. -- With the harvest in full swing on the West Coast, farmers in California and other states say they can't find enough people to pick high value crops such as grapes, peppers, apples and pears. 
In some cases, workers have walked off fields in the middle of harvest, lured by offers of better pay or easier work elsewhere. 
The shortage and competition for workers means labor expenses have climbed, harvests are getting delayed and less fruit and vegetable products are being picked, prompting some growers to say their income is suffering. Experts say, however, the shortage is not expected to affect prices for consumers. 

Wow, that's different. Usually, we are prodded to worry that a head of iceberg lettuce will soon cost $5 unless we have massively more guest workers.
But farmworkers, whose incomes are some of the lowest in the nation, have benefited, their wages jumping in California to $2 to $3 over the $8 hourly minimum wage and even more for those working piece rate. 
The shortage – driven by a struggling U.S. economy, more jobs in Mexico, and bigger hurdles to illegal border crossings – has led some farmers to offer unusual incentives: they're buying meals for their workers, paying for transportation to and from fields, even giving bonuses to those who stay for the whole season.
And a few have stationed foremen near their crews to prevent other farmers from wooing away their workers. 
"In the past, we were overrun with farmworkers. But not anymore," said labor contractor Jesus Mateo, whose crews saw a 20 percent pay increase. "Employers have to do something to attract them. The fastest workers can now earn more than $1,000 per week."... 
In some cases, farmers are being paid below market prices, because their produce is past its prime, having stayed on the branch or vine for too long. Hardest hit are small farmers, who can't afford to pay more for labor, Pegg said. 

This is where most CRitF articles, using Clean Your Plate, There Are Starving Children in China-style logic, imply that starvation or damnation or something threatens if there isn't a stoop laborer standing by to pluck every single bit of produce at its moment of peak ripeness. In reality, the tremendous variability of harvests (due to weather, etc.) means that any economically rational system will leave some fraction of some crops in the fields.
Farmers say immigration reform, which would legalize their current workforce and create a guest worker program to legally bring farmworkers from other countries, could solve the labor shortage problem. Immigration reform, however, has stalled in Congress. 
Farmers in other states are also facing shortages. In Washington, apple growers are having a hard time finding enough workers in time for peak harvest in October. And in Oregon, pear growers – whose crop is very big this year – are facing the same problem. 
"They are really struggling to get that crop off the trees," said Barry Bushue, president of the Oregon Farm Bureau. "These growers have decades of investment into plant stock, they can't just transition overnight to be less labor-intensive." 
For years, farmers throughout the U.S. had access to an abundant, cheap, mostly unauthorized labor force streaming in from Mexico. Workers say they often had to beg growers for even a few hours of work and their wages were low. 
As the U.S. plunged into a recession and Mexico's economy improved, some seasonal migrant workers chose to remain home. 
Increased border security and drug cartel violence made crossings more dangerous and expensive, deterring workers. A sharp drop in Mexico's fertility rate further decreased the number of young men crossing into the U.S. to work in the fields. 
The trend appears long-lasting, spelling trouble for farmers, according to a new report by the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center. While the recession is over, the report finds, mass migration from Mexico has not resumed. 

Or, Pew reported the total number of illegal immigrants was back up in 2012.

But, whatever. This is, overall, a much better article than almost all I've read in this genre. A few years back, some of the multitudinous journalistic Carneys, John Carney and  Timothy P. Carney, took up scoffing at the numerous articles that were just rewrites of Growers Associations talking point memos. Perhaps they are having an influence. So, say not the struggle naught availeth.
"This year, it has become even more challenging to find agricultural employees, and it's going to get worse in the next few years," said Noe Cisneros Jr. of Freedom AG, a Kern County labor contractor who manages a crew of up to 300 workers. 
On a recent September morning in an endless stretch of San Joaquin Valley vineyards, workers lifted paper trays filled with raisins and heaped them onto a trailer – the final step in an exceptionally profitable raisin harvest for the workers. 

This might be the first time in one of these CRitF articles that I've ever seen reference to how much the growers are making.

Still, while this article is much less biased in favor of growers than most, mere neutrality isn't going to undo decades of propaganda. Why not some self-criticism by the press about how they ignored the basics of economics to promote more profits for a special interests in the name of diversity and more immigration?

And why not some self-criticism among economists? As usual the obscure economists who are specialists in an area, such as UC Davis agricultural economist Philip Martin, make sense. Unfortunately, the big name economists shamefully ignore criticizing a whole genre of economically illiterate articles.
With farmworkers in such high demand, many said they shun remote locations and choose fields closer to home; they pick crops that pay better; they also prefer lighter work instead of tougher jobs that require being bent over all day. More women are also in the fields. 
Because most workers now have smartphones, they text each other information about pay and working conditions – and some switch employers mid-way through harvest if better opportunities arise. 
As a result, labor contractors and growers must work harder to fill and retain work crews. Cisneros said he even trained and hired high school students this summer to pick grapes – something he was not willing to do in the past. 

If you are new to all this, I outlined the basics of Cropsrottinginthefieldsonomics here in 2006.

42 comments:

Cail Corishev said...

The more people there are out of work, the harder it will be to sell this lie. Even people who wouldn't take a field-worker job themselves will know someone who would, or will recognize the basic fact that bringing more workers into the country ultimately means more people competing for jobs at every level.

Anonymous said...

"they text each other information about pay and working conditions – and some switch employers "

"he even trained and hired high school students"

That's funny they need people with fewer options than Mexican immigrants, aka High School students.

Power Child said...

I listen to NPR for their frequent traffic reports in the mornings, so I inevitably come across news as well. This morning they had a story about how a lot of immigrant taxi drivers had white-collar jobs (doctors, lawyers, etc.) in other countries, and how sad it is that they can't practice their profession here because, don't you know, there's a shortage of doctors--being a doctor has been added to the list of jobs Americans JWD.

Anonymous said...

I have never understood how proponents of amnesty don't realize that when the become citizens they're not going to do stoop labor anymore. They're going to sit around on housing vouchers in Spanish speaking towns sucking up Government benefits.
I don't think that's either a racist or cynical observation. It's just common sense.

Anonymous said...

You have to understand the confluence of interests here.

Every cell phone carrier benefits from illegals, for example.

Simon in London said...

"Cisneros said he even trained and hired high school students this summer to pick grapes"

Wow, it's like the 1950s (-1980s) all over again! High school students doing summer manual labour for pay! There must be a bunch of New York Ashkenazi journalists wringing their hands in horror at the thought.

Anonymous said...

Johnny McCain says American workers won't pick lettuce even for $50/hr.

That's why we need a constant revolving door of immigration - once they've been here for 5 years and get citizenship - they want $50/hour. Only hard-working brown people - without green cards - will do it.

That's what Johnny McCain thinks - and he's a war hero.

Cail Corishev said...

It seems like just yesterday we were being told American kids didn't want to work. Whaddya know, turns out they will if someone makes the slightest effort to hire them and pay them decently. Gee, that sounds familiar.

I'll be glad to pick lettuce -- or shovel manure, or chop up turkeys, or any of the other jobs that Americans supposedly won't do -- for $50/hour. Just point me to it. Sounds like a great part-time job: far better pay than most, and you get out in the fresh air. If McCain said that, he's a bigger idiot than I thought, and that's saying something.

Justme said...

Has anyone in California made the push for a higher minimum wage for crop pickers? How do those arguments proceed? Do progressives realize that less immigration of crop pickers gives the same result as a higher minimum wage inasmuch as the quantity and price of harvested crops is concerned?

Anonymous said...

You are definitely having some influence, Steve. I wonder if it's because journalists are finding your writings via Google. These days everyone uses the internet, everyone researches, even journalists (sometimes). I imagine that after reading your work most would find it persuasive because it's true. Although it's a fairly courageous step to buck the countless other cropsrottinginthefields articles for a journalist, I would imagine.

Anonymous said...

I'll be glad to pick lettuce -- or shovel manure, or chop up turkeys, or any of the other jobs that Americans supposedly won't do -- for $50/hour. Just point me to it. Sounds like a great part-time job: far better pay than most, and you get out in the fresh air. If McCain said that, he's a bigger idiot than I thought, and that's saying something.

Yes, he did say it.

Matthew said...

"Cisneros said he even trained and hired high school students this summer to pick grapes – something he was not willing to do in the past."

Oh, so it's not that high school students aren't willing to work - it's that farmers aren't willing to hire them. A part of the reason for that, I suspect, is that American high school students can't be intimidated by threats of deportation and will walk out if they're mistreated or abused.

Anonymous said...

Dude, the whole point is to prep employers for the new 10-15/hr minimum wages (it's going to be somewhere in the 10-11/hr range nationally and the West Coast is aiming for 15).

The argument will be that you can jack up minimum wages for unskilled labor without increasing consumer prices or suffering any economic penalty really, and articles like this will be waved around as justification/proof.

Cail Corishev said...

"A part of the reason for that, I suspect, is that American high school students can't be intimidated by threats of deportation and will walk out if they're mistreated or abused."

Also they wear their hats backwards and turn the music up way too loud.

The argument will be that you can jack up minimum wages for unskilled labor without increasing consumer prices

That's pretty much true; the labor cost of food is a tiny percentage of the whole. But that would be an interesting shift, since the same people have spent the last couple decades trying to convince us that paying even minimum wage would make food prices skyrocket and possibly cause shortages.

Anonymous said...

"Cisneros said he even trained and hired high school students this summer to pick grapes"

Most likely the children of illegal immigrants. But hey, it's a move in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

Do progressives realize that less immigration of crop pickers gives the same result as a higher minimum wage inasmuch as the quantity and price of harvested crops is concerned?

They know this, but less immigration means less Dem voters, and pushing for a higher minimum wage gives them a wedge issue with which to mobilize blue-collar white workers who might otherwise vote Republican.

Geoff Matthews said...

High School students picking grapes? What next? Liberal Arts graduates?

Anonymous said...

Wow, the average American must be positively starving if so many crops are rotting.

Won't somebody please think of the farmers!?!

Anonymous said...

That's pretty much true; the labor cost of food is a tiny percentage of the whole. But that would be an interesting shift, since the same people have spent the last couple decades trying to convince us that paying even minimum wage would make food prices skyrocket and possibly cause shortages
Very good point, the problem now is to cut off the guest worker programs which will asked for Central Americans that are poorer than Mexicans to do the farm work.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone in California made the push for a higher minimum wage for crop pickers? How do those arguments proceed? Do progressives realize that less immigration of crop pickers gives the same result as a higher minimum wage inasmuch as the quantity and price of harvested crops is concerned?
Will the state minimum goes to 9 next year and then 10 in 2016. Some talk of eliminating manpower in fast food, some home health care, maid and janitor work and farm work because of the 10 per hr wage.

9/27/13, 1:54 PM

cinc210 said...

Dude, the whole point is to prep employers for the new 10-15/hr minimum wages (it's going to be somewhere in the 10-11/hr range nationally and the West Coast is aiming for 15).

The argument will be that you can jack up minimum wages for unskilled labor without increasing consumer prices or suffering any economic penalty really, and articles like this will be waved around as justification/proof.
The illegals getting the jobs will have more of a work history not new arrivals. Its the first time that new arrivals Mexicans or Central Americans get kick back of the bus for a change.

Anonymous said...

Dude, the whole point is to prep employers for the new 10-15/hr minimum wages (it's going to be somewhere in the 10-11/hr range nationally and the West Coast is aiming for 15).

The argument will be that you can jack up minimum wages for unskilled labor without increasing consumer prices or suffering any economic penalty really, and articles like this will be waved around as justification/proof.
Well, most will dropped the immigrant labor if the cost is 15 per hr except some like American Apparel which has not cheated the illegal immigrant but its a start.
9/27/13, 3:04 PM

Anonymous said...

I buy a lot of Mexican produce to support their growers and keep the stoop laborers in Mexico. Pi$$ on the US growers, they have a history of socializing the costs of illegal immigration. Import the fruit, not the Mexicans.

peterike said...

Tangentially on topic: H1-B workers coming to implement Obamacare.

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9242648/H_1B_workers_in_line_for_Obamacare_work

deconstructingleftism said...

Let's be honest and direct. Farmers are as a whole evil. Corn farmers create starvation with their subsidies, and fruit and vegetable farmers force people to penury with their labor subsidies.

Anonymous said...

I buy a lot of Mexican produce to support their growers and keep the stoop laborers in Mexico. Pi$$ on the US growers, they have a history of socializing the costs of illegal immigration. Import the fruit, not the Mexicans.
Good point, there is more Mexican fruit in grocery stores than in the past. I remember farmers complaining that they had to relocate to Mexico to get workers, well they do that for other jobs why not farm work.

Anonymous said...

I buy a lot of Mexican produce to support their growers and keep the stoop laborers in Mexico. Pi$$ on the US growers, they have a history of socializing the costs of illegal immigration. Import the fruit, not the Mexicans.
Good point, there is more Mexican fruit in grocery stores than in the past. I remember farmers complaining that they had to relocate to Mexico to get workers, well they do that for other jobs why not farm work.

Anonymous said...

Low-IQ individuals inevitably end up in menial labor jobs like fast-food service, lawncare, and agriculture field work. Through dysgenic fertility and low-IQ immigration, the population of low-IQ individuals is steadily increasing. As robotic technology advances, menial labor jobs will slowly be taken over by automated systems. Thus, the supply of potential workers increases while the demand for these workers decreases. Initially, the current menial labor workers will oversee the first automated systems. But, eventually, these systems will run entirely free of operation. As a result, a large segment of the low-IQ class, a class pathologically predicated towards social turmoil, will have no steady job opportunities.
This will mean millions of illegal Hispanics and some others will be unemployed.

Anonymous said...

We always hear these endless "crops rotting in the fields" jargon. You would think nothing had ever come to harvest in America in 400 odd years. Or that Americans were all starving to death. In reality farmers and the big agribusiness lobby are among the cheapest and most mean-spirited of employers. They just want a big pool of cheap and exploitable labor. The wonder is that they can still get away with spinning these stories.

Anonymous said...

Ecovacs, a Chinese vacuum cleaner maker with a line of autonomous cleaning robots, has become the leader in the country's domestic robot industry, earning it the name "the Chinese iRobot," reports Shanghai's First Financial Daily.

Company founder Qian Dongqi says that domestic cleaning robots brought in more than 300 million yuan (US$48 million) to the company last year, and his robot products accounted for more than 60% of the entire domestic market for the gadgets last year.

The Massachusetts-based iRobot Corporation, the world's largest maker of home cleaning robots, in 2012 sold 1.6 million units, bring the total number of robots shipped by the company since its founding in 1990 to nine million.

Domestic robots are more commonplace than ever. In 2011, around 2.5 million service robots domestic upkeep were sold globally in 2011, up 15% from a year earlier, according to the International Federation of Robotics.

One robot designed by Ecovacs to roam a floor cleaning as it goes resembles a rounded set of bathroom scales. When the machine hits the wall or piece of furniture it simply takes an alternate route.

Founded in 1998, the company based in Suzhou in eastern Jiangsu province, transformed itself to a cutting-edge market leader from humble beginnings as vacuum cleaner OEM manufacturer named TEK and began selling its branded cleaners in 2006.

Though the devices have not quiet yet taken off in China, there is already healthy competition in the industry. The company expects to open 100 stores in China this year, said Qian.
Made In China not from Mexico.

 

Matthew said...

"Do progressives realize that less immigration of crop pickers gives the same result as a higher minimum wage inasmuch as the quantity and price of harvested crops is concerned?"

Progressives as a rule don't believe in private property, and don't accept that the United States is the private property of its citizens, so the notion that US immigration policy should be managed for the benefit of Americans confounds them no end. Progressives are also obsessed with race, so cutting off immigration that skews non-white also confounds them no end. In their view a Mexican or Somali is more deserving of government compassion than a native born American.

Of course, if you cut off taxpayer handouts specifically benefitting progressives - student loans and grants, government bennies, support for "art" - be prepared to get your throat slit. They'd sooner destroy the country than have their own bennies cut (see: City of Detroit, GM, Chrysler, the American steel industry, etc.), but otherwise they're a peaceful, compassionate people with no selfish intent whatsoever.

jody said...

as long as illegal aliens can be used to work fields and not be subject to minimum wage laws, it's probably profitable to employ them and not roboticize much of the work.

plenty of work done by real farmers is becoming roboticizied. there, it's a matter of volume, efficiency, and output. a commercial farm that wants x bushels of crops per acre will have to use certain modern machines.

with unskilled agriculture jobs, a lot of the work COULD be roboticized, but won't be at 5 dollars an hour rates.

it's time to investigate whether 10 dollars an hour for fast food workers is the breaking point for roboticizing the operation. probably not, but it would be getting close. that's about what in-n-out pays, and they famously pay the most.

certainly at 15 dollars, there would be almost nobody inside the kitchen in a fast food joint. those jobs would be long gone. maybe 1 or 2 guys running the robots, that's all that would be left.

california better watch WTF they're doing, because if they do actually manage to get state minimum wage to something like 13 or 14 dollars, the chances that a robot manufacturer takes on the risk of starting a new project to replace the humans in a fast food kitchen with a bunch of robots will go way up. and if the math works, then that will just spread to every state. it won't remain isolated to CA. in a decade, most of the fast food workers in the US will be unemployed as companies in every franchise move to adopt the new robots and ditch their staff.

Anonymous said...

I live in a viticulture region in the South of New Zealand.

Grape vine pruning season should now be over and all the vineyards that pay the official minimum wage have finished on schedule.

Meanwhile the badly run vineyards that don't pay minimum wage
are still trying to finish and damaging all the young buds on their plants.

Surprise, Suprise.

Anonymous said...

They know this, but less immigration means less Dem voters, and pushing for a higher minimum wage gives them a wedge issue with which to mobilize blue-collar white workers who might otherwise vote Republican.
Well, if Hilary or a white is the nominate in 2016 and not Julian Castro then the democratic party will pick up more the white vote in the mid west. Lots of the South are hook into the Republicans because they think business should be able to pay what they want and the social issues. In Texas or the South you hear we can't rise the minimum wage or we will loose jobs.

ben tillman said...

it's time to investigate whether 10 dollars an hour for fast food workers is the breaking point for roboticizing the operation.

Occasionally, Peter Schaeffer's point needs to be reiterated: every worker needs to make $12 per hour just to pay his share of the country's medical costs.

Mr. Anon said...

"Because most workers now have smartphones, they text each other information about pay and working conditions – and some switch employers mid-way through harvest if better opportunities arise."

The nerve of these people - behaving as if they were corporate executives with no loyalty to anything but their bank balance. Don't these stoop laborers know that they are intended to be property? Can't we just enslave them? And in so doing, bring them out of the shadows.

Mr. Anon said...

"Cail Corishev said...

If McCain said that, he's a bigger idiot than I thought, and that's saying something."

Indeed. One should never underestimate the stupidity of John McCain. He is a very stupid man. Prideful, and stupid.

Anonymous said...

Japan could provide an instructive example: no immigration, no underclass of menial workers, heavy automation, and no popular fear of automation.

Matthew said...

"The nerve of these people - behaving as if they were corporate executives with no loyalty to anything but their bank balance. Don't these stoop laborers know that they are intended to be property?"

Mr. Anon, FTW.

Anonymous said...

Japan could provide an instructive example: no immigration, no underclass of menial workers, heavy automation, and no popular fear of automation.
Japan population is aging beyond having full time jobs. The US wants continue population growth.

Anonymous said...

I just published on Keith Preston anarchists site why supporting the current immigration is actually more status quo since it helps the elites in Mexico and Central America as well not deal with their problems. Keith like many radicals blames the US without thinking that the elites in the other countries benefit with certain trade agreements like NAFTA and so forth. So, he wants illegal immigrants to stay since he states they are not leaving but a radical should encouraged radical developments in Mexico and Central America that will leave to change were Mexicans and Central Americans that are only here for the money would go home.

Anonymous said...

A study conducted in the Tenosique area of Chiapas found that three groups — criminals (47.5 percent), the local Public Security police (15.2 percent), and migration agents (15.2 percent) — accounted for most of the mistreatment of immigrants arriving in Mexico from Central America8 mainly along the new El Naranjo-El Ceibo-Tenosique highway. Further south in Chiapas — in the Tapachula, Puerto Madero, Ciudad Hidalgo, and Soconusco region — charges have frequently been leveled against plantation, or finca, owners for exploiting Guatemalan guestworkers, known as jornaleros or braceros, who work on their vast ranches.
Meixcans could work on the ranch but big ranch owners hire Guatemlans.