Farms adjusting to life without immigrant labor: Report


By Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times

August 10, 2017


Farmers addicted to cheap illegal immigrant labor are facing disruptions, but not devastation, as they adjust to world with fewer unauthorized workers, according to a new report Thursday.


The Migration Policy Institute found that farms are plugging gaps by using machines, enticing workers to stay by offering health care — and are even tapping legal guest workers to fill empty jobs.


Its analysis said warnings from immigrant-rights advocates of food shortages have not generally come to pass. The agriculture industry, it says, has seen an upheaval as farmers shift strategies to try to deal with the evolving labor force.


Mechanization — either as a replacement or as assistance to current workers — is growing, as is better treatment of migrants in the hopes that they’ll stick around. Indeed, the days of field workers ranging from farm to farm with each seasonal crop are over, and farms are making a push to keep their workforce stable and in place through better conditions and bonuses.


“In response to the dwindling arrival of newcomers from Mexico, farm employers are increasingly pursuing four strategies to meet their labor needs: satisfy, stretch, substitute and supplement,” Philip Martin, an agriculture professor at the University of California, Davis, said in the report.


The farm industry could be the tip of the iceberg as President Trump proposes bigger changes to legal immigration, suggesting future flows be cut in half by trimming family-based migration and imposing a new point system to better select those who earn work-based green cards...