Monday, May 21, 2007

United States: Aging Farm Workforce and Immigration Reform

"A labor shortage is already hurting Imperial Valley farmers, but an aging work force in the fields suggests the problem could become much more severe if something isn’t done soon," reports Nick Taborek. Writing for the Medill Reports, he notes that immigration legislation before the U.S. Congress could help boost the labor supply but that some farm advocates suggest that only allowing temporary workers will not help long term.

He reports that Eric Reyes, a farm worker advocate in the Imperial Valley, finds that fewer young adults are opting for the long hours and strain associated with farm work, with the average age of a farm worker being now over 50 years old. In addition,
Ayron Moiola, executive director of the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association, says “You’re not seeing a younger generation take their place.”

With respect to immigration reform,
Reyes said farmers hoping to attract a younger workforce for years to come should push for a bill that grants all new workers an attainable path to citizenship. If farm workers entering the U.S. are only given temporary visas, he doubts that the labor shortage will disappear.

Mark McBroom, a citrus farmer in the Imperial Valley, said there may be no clear-cut solution to the aging workforce in the fields. Rather, the trend for younger workers to shun farm work may be simply a sign of the times.
Source: Medill Reports "Farmers fret over aging workforce in the fields" (May 21, 2007)

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