A Dearth of Agricultural Workers?
Press accounts abound of the problems of agricultural producers who cannot find workers to harvest their crops. Even NYC Mayor Bloomberg, who has a penchant for pontificating about things of which he has little or no knowledge, jumped on this bandwagon in the CNN special report on immigration on June 10 when he cited the problems of farmers abandoning crops to rot for lack of workers. Usually not mentioned in these stories – as it was not in the CNN report – is the fact that a legal agricultural guest worker program exists that can bring in an unlimited number of foreign workers if U.S. workers are unavailable. An exception to this generalization was published by the Independent Mail in South Carolina on June 8, 2012. This article, circulated by Scripps Howard News Service, notes that the H-2A visa program for agricultural workers exists, but, “If he used the program … he would have to increase his employees’ wages to $9.50 an hour from an estimated $7.67, which is the minimum wage in Florida.” The article explains that the salary requirement results from a provision that is regulated by the U.S. Department of Labor that is intended to assure, “…that the employment of aliens will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.” The other issue generally ignored in these news accounts of a shortage of agricultural workers is the fact that because of the depressed wages in agricultural labor – which has resulted from the abundant supply of illegal aliens in that economic sector – and the fact that illegal alien workers have gained ground in obtaining jobs in construction and services that pay higher wages, even illegal alien workers increasingly shun agricultural work if they can find other jobs.
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