2006 October 03 Tuesday
Pear Farmers Complain About Smaller Supply Of Illegal Aliens

Pear farmers are complaining because their supply of subsidized illegal alien labor has been reduced by tougher border enforcement.

LAKEPORT, Calif. The pear growers in Lake County waited decades for a crop of shapely fruit like the one that adorned their orchards last month.

"I felt like I went to heaven," said Nick Ivicevich, recalling the perfection of his most abundant crop in 45 years of tending trees.

Now harvest time has passed and tons of pears have ripened to mush on their branches, while the ground of Mr. Ivicevich's orchard reeks with rotting fruit. He and other growers in Lake County, 90 miles north of San Francisco, could not find enough pickers.

Stepped-up border enforcement kept many illegal Mexican migrant workers out of California this year, farmers and labor contractors said, putting new strains on the state's shrinking seasonal farm labor force.

Ron Guhname saw a CNN show about pears rotting on the ground due to lack of illegal immigrant workers to pick them cheaply. Guhname is unsympathetic to the complaints of the pear farmers.

I say serves you right: you got it coming when you make your living off of illegality, and when you impose all the costs of illegals on your neighbors.

In the comments at that link Steve Sailer asks whether the pears are rotting due to excess supply. It turns out that increased foreign pear and apple supplies have sent prices plummeting and acreage dedicated to them has been shrinking for years before the illegal alien supply started to get undercut.

Orchard acreage in Oregon has fallen about 20 percent over the past two decades, according to a new fruit tree inventory compiled by the federal government.

Apples, in particular, has taken a hit, with the 4,835 acres of apples in production in 1986 dwindling to 1,340 acres in Hood River, Wasco, Josephine and Jackson counties.

Increased foreign competition and oversupply have sent apple and pear prices plummeting. And as orchards are turned into golf courses, or preserved as parks, agriculture employment declines too, with the closure of packing houses.

All this was happening while the illegals were flooding into the country.

Recent years have seen a drop in pear prices.

The price for No. 1 grade pears last season was $215 a ton, compared with $210 in 2004, $246 in 2003, and $243 in 2002.

The price willl be higher in 2006 and 2007 than 2005 but still lower than 2003 and 2002.

Think the shortage of illegal alien labor is going to drive up the prices we pay for pears? Foreign competition is driving the price of pears, not labor costs. Pear farmers are faced with cheap labor in China that drives down the price of pears.

Ivicevich said production costs for his crop are about $2,500 an acre, with an additional $1,000 an acre needed to cover harvest costs. The past few years have been financially challenging, he said. Rising production costs, competition from China and weather conditions have all made it hard for Lake County pear growers to make a profit.

If the pear farmers want a source of cheap illegal alien labor they should recruit from North Carolina where the Hispanics are literally hungry.

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Wake Forest University School of Medicine researchers have found high rates of hunger in surveys of immigrant Latino families in eastern and western North Carolina, southwestern Virginia and Forsyth County.

"Although the United States enjoys a relative lack of hunger, there are segments of the N.C. population Latino immigrants with hunger more severe than areas of persistent poverty like Appalachia," said Sara A. Quandt, Ph.D. The overall hunger rate for the U.S. is 4.3 percent. The Wake Forest surveys found that rates of hunger among Latino immigrants ranged from almost twice the national rate (8 percent) to more than eight times the national rate (35.6 percent). The results were reported in the October issue of the Journal of Nutrition.

"About 40 percent of the respondents in each study reported worrying that food would run out and that food bought would not last," said Quandt, the lead author. That combination, less severe than "hunger," is viewed as "food insecurity" and includes such actions as relying on just a few kinds of food and cutting meal size for children and adults.

...

In Forsyth, 15.8 percent of those surveyed reported children had had to go all day without food in the past year and 21.8 percent reported that children were hungry because they couldn't afford more food. And yet the researchers also found that only 12.9 percent of those in Forsyth reported receiving food from a food pantry compared to 25 percent of those in eastern North Carolina.

The farmers should embrace automation and stop bringing in illegal aliens whose health care, education of children, crime, and other costs are paid for by the rest of us.

Update: The whining farmers are losing their laborers to construction companies which pay more money.

As the border tightens, Mexican workers who once spent part of each year in American fields without a work permit fear that if they go back to Mexico, they will be trapped behind the border, farmers say. Instead, they stay in the United States, taking year-round jobs that pay more and are less backbreaking than farm work, such as cleaning hotels or working in construction in cities on the Gulf Coast devastated by last year's hurricanes.

"Frequently you hear, especially from California, complaints about construction companies actually recruiting workers from the sides of the fields," said Craig Regelbrugge, co-chair of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform.

I heard an anecdotal report about a big grower about 100 miles from where I live that was losing farm workers to construction companies hiring them to move to Bakersfield to build houses. So I'm not surprised to read this. Where do the farmers get off thinking they have a God given right to cheap labor?

Some farmers are automating.

Some farmers said they have invested in machines to take the place of workers, though some tasks, such as picking soft fruit, cannot be mechanized.

Soft fruit picking could be automated. It'd take some robotic technology with pressure sensors to prevent the pickers from squeezing too hard. It is not impossible.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 October 03 10:17 PM  Immigration Economics


Comments
John S Bolton said at October 4, 2006 2:19 AM:

Competing on a labor-cost and availability basis with China for pear and apple market-share, would require huge increases in aggression on the net taxpayer, and still fail, leaving hordes of illiterates to flop on to the alternative welfare system.
Apparently an unexpected discordance of ripening times occurred between two CA districts, leaving the experienced high-ladder pickers to stay away from the more off-the-track district in Lake county.
Items which require hand-picking and which are subject to foreign competition from low-wage countries are exactly the sort of operations to which we should say good riddance.
These people would actually need tariffs or quotas, but there is no protectionist movement for them to latch on to, so they squeal for cheap illegals.
Should millionaire landowners, with generations of legendary greed for public subsidies behind them, receive compassion and mercy when they cry poverty?
Show them no mercy.
May their fields be salted so that their descendants cannot return to reclaim them 100 years hence.
Cartago delendo est.

Richard said at October 4, 2006 4:05 AM:

I live in an apple growing area where every summer through fall, Jamaicans come and toil. It is hard work and does demand a certain skill level to make sure the apple gets to the customer in good condition.

The big question is, how come these guys go home. Every fall, after the harvest they are on their way back home. I know why I would want to go to the Islands come November as it gets colder and I am not getting any younger, but why don't these guys just head to the "big apple" (which is short bus ride away) after work is done in the little apple and there is nothing to stop them?

Maybe, they have a good thing going as many have been coming back for years.

Ivan said at October 4, 2006 6:26 AM:

I would like every complaint by a company to be mirrored with a statement by consumers -- and vice versa.

When will this headline make the news?
"Plummeting Pear Prices leave Eaters Rejoiced"

The same of course applies to the immigrants this site complains about.

beowulf said at October 4, 2006 10:26 AM:

"I know why I would want to go to the Islands come November as it gets colder..."

Richard, you've answered your own question. The life of a snowbird is a good one. If you could work in Maine during the summer and fall (and I imagine the weather is quite nice) and earn enough money to live the rest of the year in Jamaica, that sounds pretty nice.

nz conservative said at October 4, 2006 6:27 PM:

Personally, I get less annoyed about workers from poorer countries doing productive jobs on farms and in factories rather than doing service jobs for the 'lords and ladies'

However, guest worker programmes only work if the government is willing to vigorously enforce minimum wage laws, visas documentation e.t.c.

IN the US which already has plenty of cheap labour, I can't really see why farmers should be allowed to import extra seasonal labour.

John S Bolton said at October 5, 2006 3:01 AM:

It may be that their complaint is actually that there is a smaller supply of NEW illegal aliens.
Even that, though, is probably not true, and for them to be quite explicit about it would be indiscreet.
What growers would want is for each cohort of new illegals to be larger and more distressed than the last.
Since they can't forthrightly state any such preference to the general public, they have to use tears over
wasted foodstuffs and so on, counting on the media to do the emotional manipulation largely for them; but especially not to allow reason to be appealed to.
If not so, then why the emotional appeals, with no allowance for other explanations and views?
Why must it be implicitly pretended that there is a consensus on such issues, and even in the face of well-known, and quite massive popular displeasure over mass immigration of unskilled foreign criminals in peonage?

Stephen said at October 5, 2006 3:51 AM:

John, I find myself agreeing with you more and more.

I'm scared.

PacRim Jim said at October 6, 2006 11:08 PM:

If these bozos had their way, there would be millions of telephone operators instead of digital switches. Throughout American history, machines have been developed to handle the dirty, low-end jobs nobody wanted to do. Why not let the market develop machines to pick pears?


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