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(Article Summarized by Meridian Institute) Agricultural businessmen in California say they face an urgent shortage of workers. It all started, they say, when former President Barack Obama tightened the border. President Donald Trump’s promises to deport more people, raid more companies and build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico have only made the problem worse. “That,” this article states, “has made California farms a proving ground for the Trump team’s theory that by cutting off the flow of immigrants they will free up more jobs for American-born workers and push up their wages.” But, this article continues, the results thus far are not encouraging for farmers or domestic workers. Instead, the authors write, “Farmers are being forced to make difficult choices about whether to abandon some of the state’s hallmark fruits and vegetables, move operations abroad, import workers under a special visa or replace them altogether with machines.” Raises, and benefits such as health insurance and subsidized housing, have not tempted native-born Americans to head to the fields. According to a federal survey, nine out of 10 agriculture workers in California are still foreign born. Jeff Klein, a fourth-generation farmer, recently ripped out 113,000 Chardonnay grapevines on his farm. “I try to make any decision I make not emotional. When you’re running a business, it has to be a financial decision,” he says, adding, “There’s not enough guys, and everybody is fighting for everybody else’s guys.” And, although he voted for Trump, he is concerned about recent executive orders on deportation plans and the call for a wall. “That’s killing our labor force,” he said. He plans to replace his grapes with almond and olive trees, which require much less labor. Brad Goehring, another fourth-generation farmer, says he plans to re-engineer his vineyards so they can be harvested by machines. Even when the average pay rate for workers on his fields was $20 an hour, U.S.-born workers didn’t last. “We’ve never had one come back after lunch,” he says. And, he added, if it doesn’t work to have a vineyard that is machine-managed, he plans to reluctantly replace his vines with almond trees.

Posted March 20th, 2017