2007 February 21 Wednesday
Less Immigration Raises Farm Labor Rates $2 Per Hour
All the money that Congress has felt pressured into spending on border security has begun raising farm labor wages.
Empty stations on the harvest lines are more common this year throughout this swath of Arizona farm country, says Rademacher, who serves as president of the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association. The reasons are many: a 40,000-person limit on the number of foreign guest workers allowed into the US, tighter borders that are discouraging illegal crossings, and rising demand for day laborers in other industries, such as higher-paying construction work.
The shortage of farm workers has been driving wages higher. Last season, base pay for day laborers working in this area was $6.50 an hour. Now it's $8.50. Rademacher says it may go higher because farmers here can't attract enough employees.
Growers want passage of the AgJOBS bill in Congress so that a flood of immigrant labor can drive down their labor costs. Never mind that the rest of us will pay more for police, schools, prisons, Medicaid. and other social programs. Never mind that less skilled and lower wage natives will see their incomes fall. The farmers want what is good for them at our expense.
If we stopped all legal and illegal immigration of low skilled workers then many industries would invest more in automation and the rate of increase in worker productivity would rise. We'd enjoy higher living standards and a less costly welfare state. Plus, our crime rates would be lower.
Looks like Im going to have to move abroad if I start a farm :O
Mass low-skill immigration, both legal and illegal, is insanity (though mass illegal unskilled immigration is a particular finger in the eye, because it is well, illegal in addition to very harmful). The best way to reduce almost all of our social problems is to keep low-skill immigration, and particularly low skill illegal immigration*, to trivial levels (maybe the low tens of thousands per year, at most, as well as a net decrease in illegal immigration).
High-skill, primarily Asian immigration (with some high-end Latino/Amerind minority), combined with the virtual stoppage of low-skill immigration, is probably the best economic plan for the U.S. there is. The main issue here is stopping high-performing non-whites from marching in lockstep with angry, tribalistic, and ultimately racist ethnic lobbies**.
*"Low skill illegal immigration" is almost a redundancy; there may be as few as one in fifty illegal immigrants who are both able and willing to make anything out of themselves
**This is not to say that whites don't have their own racist impulses, but in this society, they are light years from political discourse or real political effects.
Actually, the lack of immigration in Japan, made it obligatory for Japan to robotize everything in all areas. Had there been cheap immigrant labor the way it exists in the United States, maybe the Japanese economy would not have been so robotized.
Hence perhaps the lower immigration will ultimately force the U.S. to automate agriculture, which is an easy thing to do. Of course, the next step is to robotize the writing of software, but then Randall Parker might start a collectivists union of programmers who will lobby against it.
I've been told the land itself it extremely expensive because of farm subsidies. That guarenteed cash makes farmland more valuable.
If we eliminated subsidies, the market would be less warped. Also other countries that probably are sending immigrants would start sending more farm products, as the prices would rise. It would be better to improve their economies than to have other contries depend on remittances from immigrants coming to the US.
But Africa would be aided the most by far.
The thing that will deflate the land prices is going to be robotics and genetic engineering which will make food production (and biomass production for both fuel and plastics, etc) far more efficient. Thus agriculture will gradually resemble industrial manufacturing in factories, and will one day require only a small fraction of the surface area, possibly less than 1 % of the present land allocated for agriculture. But this will also cause the power to get concentrated in the cognitive elite in the future.