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The recession contributes to farmworker glut

One thing farmers apparently will not have to worry about during the upcoming growing season is a farm labor shortage. Slowdowns in the construction and food industries are turning many immigrant workers back to agriculture, according to a Los Angeles Times article published yesterday.

Reporter Jerry Hirsch wrote about a dramatic turnaround in what farmers considered a serious farmworker shortage three years ago. However, UC Davis agricultural economist Phil Martin offered the reporter a different view. He questioned whether the "shortage" was actually the result of a reluctance by farmers to raise wages enough to persuade people to do farm work

"You can't talk about need or shortage without talking about wages," Martin was quoted.

Farmers and agribusiness interests say they can't afford to pay much more than the minimum wage because of international competition, the story said.

"So what happens is that people move on to higher-paying jobs. Farm labor is a job, not a career. When people have other options, they get out of farm work. Construction is a frequent first step up the job ladder," Hirsch quoted Martin.

When higher-paying jobs become scarce, many laborers are forced back to the land.

Posted on Wednesday, February 11, 2009 at 10:49 AM
Tags: economy (21), farmworkers (6), recession (3)

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