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(WRCB)   The Law of Unintended Consequences in action: Alabama farmers forced to plant fewer crops because they can't find enough Real 'Mericans to work the fields for the harvest   (wrcbtv.com ) divider line
    More: Obvious, Alabama, unintended consequences, labor shortage, White House Rose Garden, North Alabama, crops, land areas, farmers  
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10124 clicks; posted to Main » on 13 May 2012 at 12:59 PM (4 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-05-13 01:32:26 PM  
Maybe someone should start an "Occupy the fields" movement, and convince the hippies that by doing this work themselves they are somehow sticking it to The Man.

Win/Win
 
2012-05-13 01:33:10 PM  

gingerjet: DrewCurtisJr: We had these articles all over the place last year about labor shortages and crops rotting in fields. When there were no shortages in produce and prices didn't budge we strangely did not have any follow up stories. Expect the same this year.

Perhaps because 90% of the produce in my local supermarket is from Mexico, Brazil or Monaco.


No its not.
 
2012-05-13 01:33:34 PM  

Winning: GTMD2B: There was an earlier article (quick GIS couldn't find it, or I'd cite it) that reported on Idaho farmers who hired locals for $15 /hr + benefits and they had people walking off the job after the first day, as well as much lower performance.

I think most of that has to do with people not being used to that level of labor. You take a guy who thinks mowing the lawn with a push mower is a major chore and stick him in a field chances are you can't pay him enough to get him to stick around.


Agreed.

Mnemia: If they can't find enough labor, then they aren't offering enough pay for the work. Sure, Americans may demand better pay to do such hard work, but too bad. That's how supply and demand work. If someone has the chance to do much easier work for a comparable or higher wage, why would they take a job working on the fields? Raise the wages high enough, and people will do it, same as people do other "hard" jobs like fishing in Alaska when the pay is good.

Or, they could figure out a way to do the work without depending on a cheap supply of easily exploitable workers, just like every other industry in the developed world. Greater automation, more technology, larger scale, etc. works better than whining.


Umm... econ 101 would beg to differ. Supply and demand is about the levelling of the two, not the "I walk away from the table if you don't give me everything" into which most of these debates devolve.
 
2012-05-13 01:33:43 PM  
Cutting back on how much is planted will increase the price of the crops. Higher prices will allow them to pay more for the labor, and it should eventually balance out.

The number of unemployed and the number of illegal workers are about the same. The solution is obvious on how to lower unemployment...
 
2012-05-13 01:34:23 PM  

ElBarto79: I'm fairly liberal but I don't really see this as the failure some are presenting it as. This is a good thing, it means the farmers and the government are going to have to address this issue of farm labor in a realistic and legal manner.

If farmers are planting less then it implies prices will rise, meaning they will have more money to pay legal workers, ta da. Or perhaps it will spur innovation of automated farming techniques, or maybe it will force the government to come up with a better temporary worker program which will allow immigrant laborers to come here and earn a fair wage in a safe manner instead of the current, exploitative situation. The point is they will actually have to come up with a real fix for this instead of allowing a system of virtual slave labor to operate as they look the other way. This is a good thing.


Liberal and reasonable, a combination you don't often encounter on Fark. You're saying what I've been saying for years, with the exception that I'd also throw in the possibility that many labor-intensive crops could be grown where the workers are, rather than having to bring them and the attendant problems to where the crops are.
 
2012-05-13 01:34:50 PM  

Winning: first job was 12.50 an hour digging ditches. Wasn't so bad as long as it wasn't hot out


First (summer) job was on a gravel crusher for the highways dep't for $10 a day.

/and it was uphill both ways
 
2012-05-13 01:35:18 PM  

BunkyBrewman: I meant *before* the unions formed. We're on the same page here.

/fine, 19th century then


You're a good brewman. Keep up the good work.
 
2012-05-13 01:35:49 PM  
THAR NOT TAKIN' UR JOERBS!!!
 
2012-05-13 01:36:16 PM  

Winning: jbuist: Average pay for those jobs in Alabama was $12/hr according to one of the many articles we've greenlit around here on the subject.

$12 an hour to walk around in the heat and humidity doing manual labor or $7.25 an hour to work a cash register at McDonald's in a climate controlled building?

I'd do it for $18/hr

/first job was 12.50 an hour digging ditches. Wasn't so bad as long as it wasn't hot out.


I'd do it. I spend every day planting and uprooting trees, throwing around 40 pound bags of mulch (50 bags at a time) moving 18 pound pavers (300 of them), And I do it for enjoyment (free)

picking crops is nothing.
 
2012-05-13 01:36:49 PM  
Every summer we have one or two migrant farm workers die in the Sacramento metro area because of inadequate water supplies, inadequate rest periods, inadequate shelter, etc. It seems like we have at least one or two e. Coli outbreaks every summer as well as not all of the farmers provide the required sanitation facilities so pickin' produce ain't the only business they're doing in those fields. Since some are undocumented, no one really says anything as either they don't want to be detained and deported or they don't want their friends to be detained and deported. There are so many issues with ag work in this area that it's more than a little disheartening. I honestly don't see even a desperate 'Merkin doing that kind of work due to the poor working conditions, especially for what the farmers are willing to pay - which is linked to what most of us are willing to pay for our veggies and fruits.

/hopes someone much smarter than me fixes it some day
 
2012-05-13 01:37:02 PM  

way south: Enigmamf: More of this backbreaking manual labor would likely have been automated at this point if it weren't for cheap, desperate labor.

This.
Importing a workforce just to exploit them was not a viable a solution from the start.


Hmmm... That does ring a bell.
 
2012-05-13 01:37:46 PM  
Obama was going to fix the guest worker program but then Clooney called so he went to a party instead.
 
2012-05-13 01:38:01 PM  

Mnemia: If they can't find enough labor, then they aren't offering enough pay for the work. Sure, Americans may demand better pay to do such hard work, but too bad. That's how supply and demand work. If someone has the chance to do much easier work for a comparable or higher wage, why would they take a job working on the fields? Raise the wages high enough, and people will do it, same as people do other "hard" jobs like fishing in Alaska when the pay is good.


And to pay higher wages they need to raise the cost of the produce. And then stores don't buy their produce and instead import food straight from Mexico.

Or, they could figure out a way to do the work without depending on a cheap supply of easily exploitable workers, just like every other industry in the developed world. Greater automation, more technology, larger scale, etc. works better than whining.

You mean all the industries outsourcing everything they can to China and India due to the cheap labor over there?

Have you been living under a rock for the past fifty years or something?
 
2012-05-13 01:38:28 PM  

GTMD2B: Winning: GTMD2B: There was an earlier article (quick GIS couldn't find it, or I'd cite it) that reported on Idaho farmers who hired locals for $15 /hr + benefits and they had people walking off the job after the first day, as well as much lower performance.

I think most of that has to do with people not being used to that level of labor. You take a guy who thinks mowing the lawn with a push mower is a major chore and stick him in a field chances are you can't pay him enough to get him to stick around.

Agreed.

Mnemia: If they can't find enough labor, then they aren't offering enough pay for the work. Sure, Americans may demand better pay to do such hard work, but too bad. That's how supply and demand work. If someone has the chance to do much easier work for a comparable or higher wage, why would they take a job working on the fields? Raise the wages high enough, and people will do it, same as people do other "hard" jobs like fishing in Alaska when the pay is good.

Or, they could figure out a way to do the work without depending on a cheap supply of easily exploitable workers, just like every other industry in the developed world. Greater automation, more technology, larger scale, etc. works better than whining.

Umm... econ 101 would beg to differ. Supply and demand is about the levelling of the two, not the "I walk away from the table if you don't give me everything" into which most of these debates devolve.


You didn't understand my point. Employers demand labor, which employees supply in exchange for money. If the labor is "hard", then that's going to decrease the number of people willing to supply the labor for a given wage. The issue isn't that people won't work for $12/hour or whatever...plenty of people will. It's just that fewer people will do that particular work for that particular wage. So the supply decreases, demand increases, and the price that needs to be paid for all demand for labor to be met goes up. This is simple.
 
2012-05-13 01:38:47 PM  
Didn't the economy of the South already collapse once because cheap farm labor was no longer available?
 
2012-05-13 01:40:13 PM  

offmymeds: Farmers interviewed by The Associated Press say they had no choice but to reduce acreage. They fear there won't be enough workers to pick crops at harvest time. The crops are often picked by Hispanic migrants, both legal and illegal.

[admin.bhbl.neric.org image 314x300]

Problem solved.

/i keed


If only they worked that hard today....
 
2012-05-13 01:40:21 PM  

dognose4: Cutting back on how much is planted will increase the price of the crops. Higher prices will allow them to pay more for the labor, and it should eventually balance out.

The number of unemployed and the number of illegal workers are about the same. The solution is obvious on how to lower unemployment...


It'll increase the cost of the crops.

Price is more a result of market forces, and there are plenty of regions that can truck in produce very cheaply.
 
2012-05-13 01:40:37 PM  
Solution...

1) prisoners

2) enslave able body welfare recipients

3) robots

Problem solved.
 
2012-05-13 01:41:13 PM  

9beers: Obama was going to fix the guest worker program but then Clooney called so he went to a party instead.


I know it. He refused to write and pass the laws. Instead we got:

Obama wants to party all the time, party all the time, party all the time.
 
2012-05-13 01:42:28 PM  
Hasn't anyone ever seen Cool Hand Luke? There are shiat tons of nonviolent prisoners that could do the work for pennies on the dollar just for the privilege of being outside for a few hours a day. We could offset the cost of housing and feeding them with the wages they earn in the fields. DUH.
 
2012-05-13 01:43:04 PM  
Average pay for those jobs in Alabama was $12/hr according to one of the many articles we've greenlit around here on the subject.

Horse hockey: if you're an experienced picker that would be the case. Some Washington State students who decided to try these lucrative agricultural jobs found that it was more like $12 per week for them.
 
2012-05-13 01:43:44 PM  

hbk72777: Winning: jbuist: Average pay for those jobs in Alabama was $12/hr according to one of the many articles we've greenlit around here on the subject.

$12 an hour to walk around in the heat and humidity doing manual labor or $7.25 an hour to work a cash register at McDonald's in a climate controlled building?

I'd do it for $18/hr

/first job was 12.50 an hour digging ditches. Wasn't so bad as long as it wasn't hot out.

I'd do it. I spend every day planting and uprooting trees, throwing around 40 pound bags of mulch (50 bags at a time) moving 18 pound pavers (300 of them), And I do it for enjoyment (free)

picking crops is nothing.


Doing something because you love it and doing something because you're forced too is a huge difference. It's like fking because you enjoy fking, and fking because you have bills to pay. When you enjoy it, you choose when you're going to do it. When it's force or necessity, you don't get to choose the circumstances under which you are doing it.

Having said that, I wouldn't mind doing it, either. For a living wage. Illegal/undocumented wages are not a living wage. If there are hidden exceptions to the $12/hour wage presented above, like if you don't meet quota, that's a worse problem.
 
2012-05-13 01:44:28 PM  
Melissa Bruninga Matteau who has a PhD in medieval history maybe interested in working there.
 
2012-05-13 01:44:32 PM  

Omnivorous: Average pay for those jobs in Alabama was $12/hr according to one of the many articles we've greenlit around here on the subject.

Horse hockey: if you're an experienced picker that would be the case. Some Washington State students who decided to try these lucrative agricultural jobs found that it was more like $12 per week for them.


Any benefits included? Health insurance?
 
2012-05-13 01:45:53 PM  
your right subby , lets keep our little Mexican slave laborers
 
2012-05-13 01:46:16 PM  

Tyranicle: Solution...

1) prisoners

2) enslave able body welfare recipients

3) robots

Problem solved.


Word. America as a third world country. Why the fk not. It's not like the global investors give a fk. It's all about the profit. America has too many regulations, let's be more like the up and comers who don't have shiat in the way of protections.
 
2012-05-13 01:46:59 PM  

Rakishi: Mnemia: If they can't find enough labor, then they aren't offering enough pay for the work. Sure, Americans may demand better pay to do such hard work, but too bad. That's how supply and demand work. If someone has the chance to do much easier work for a comparable or higher wage, why would they take a job working on the fields? Raise the wages high enough, and people will do it, same as people do other "hard" jobs like fishing in Alaska when the pay is good.

And to pay higher wages they need to raise the cost of the produce. And then stores don't buy their produce and instead import food straight from Mexico.

Or, they could figure out a way to do the work without depending on a cheap supply of easily exploitable workers, just like every other industry in the developed world. Greater automation, more technology, larger scale, etc. works better than whining.

You mean all the industries outsourcing everything they can to China and India due to the cheap labor over there?

Have you been living under a rock for the past fifty years or something?


Your issues here center around the selective restriction of trade, and I agree that this is a problem for American farmers (free trade in labor is restricted, but free trade in the products of the labor is not). That's why I'm suspicious of "free trade" proponents, when what they often really mean is selective, unregulated trade that benefits only corporations. I think part of the solution is intelligent regulation of trade in some areas; in others, it doesn't make sense for every country to produce everything if they can't do it profitably. With that sort of environment, productivity gains from automation, etc is likely the only solution other than going out of business. A business in a high wage country that depends on low wage labor is fundamentally flawed.
 
2012-05-13 01:48:09 PM  

Tatterdemalian: Weaver95: ALEC has a solution to that as well - fire office workers and outsource skilled labor to china and india. then hire the former office workers and tech people to work in the fields. and they'll do it because SOCIALISMS! plus, we can just rework the old serfdom rules and slap a modern shine on 'em. one or two slick advertising campaigns later and they'll LINE UP to join!

/this is what Republicans actually believe.

That is what Chairman Mao, Pol Pot, and Robert Mugabe actually did. It worked about as well as you could expect.

/we don't really have the excuse of not knowing what will happen
//no, doing the same thing in the US will not produce a different result


Well, doing what Hitler and Mussolini did, in this country, probably wouldn't make anything better either - but that doesn't stop the extreme right from trying.
Maybe it's time we stopped listening to extremists.
 
2012-05-13 01:48:55 PM  
I am gonna say 100% of the farkers here if offered $50/hr to do this job would not last 2 weeks.

you're soft and fat.
 
2012-05-13 01:49:21 PM  

Weaver95: Nadie_AZ: Less people to feed?

Has anyone in the state begun to consider this might not have been the brilliant stroke of genius that ALEC told them it would be?

ALEC has a solution to that as well - fire office workers and outsource skilled labor to china and india. then hire the former office workers and tech people to work in the fields. and they'll do it because SOCIALISMS! plus, we can just rework the old serfdom rules and slap a modern shine on 'em. one or two slick advertising campaigns later and they'll LINE UP to join!

/this is what Republicans actually believe.


No it's not.
 
2012-05-13 01:50:32 PM  
Most farmers, at least here in Nebraska, want a level playing field for hiring. Once you start hiring illegals for less than the minimum wage, it really messes up the local payscale. If no one will work for $8/hr, you have to move up. Alabama just hasn't reached a competitive wage yet.
 
2012-05-13 01:50:34 PM  
I love how white republicans think they have some god-given right to brown or yellow people doing their work for slave wages, increasing the profits that can rightfully flow to the god-fearing masters.

Hypocrite bastards.
 
2012-05-13 01:51:42 PM  
Wait until all the women, gays, young people and smart people start leaving the states that are passing all these morals laws. You'll see some state economies collapse completely.
 
2012-05-13 01:51:46 PM  

Mnemia: Your issues here center around the selective restriction of trade, and I agree that this is a problem for American farmers (free trade in labor is restricted, but free trade in the products of the labor is not). That's why I'm suspicious of "free trade" proponents, when what they often really mean is selective, unregulated trade that benefits only corporations. I think part of the solution is intelligent regulation of trade in some areas; in others, it doesn't make sense for every country to produce everything if they can't do it profitably. With that sort of environment, productivity gains from automation, etc is likely the only solution other than going out of business. A business in a high wage country that depends on low wage labor is fundamentally flawed.


The problem is that not all people are equal and higher wage jobs require higher qualifications (including in intelligence). People don't magically change when the job distribution changes.

What happens when 20 or 30% of the population is unemployed because there literally aren't jobs they can do?
 
2012-05-13 01:52:01 PM  

ranchguy: I am gonna say 100% of the farkers here if offered $50/hr to do this job would not last 2 weeks.

you're soft and fat.


So what? Our society isn't primarily based on manual labor anymore, so why should it be surprising that most people can't handle it and don't want to do it?
 
2012-05-13 01:52:18 PM  
Clearly the solution to not enough farmers is to get rid of our borders.
Really?

How about making migrant worker visas easier to get so they can work legally? Nah, that's just crazy talk.
 
2012-05-13 01:54:09 PM  

KimNorth: Weaver95: Nadie_AZ: Less people to feed?

Has anyone in the state begun to consider this might not have been the brilliant stroke of genius that ALEC told them it would be?

ALEC has a solution to that as well - fire office workers and outsource skilled labor to china and india. then hire the former office workers and tech people to work in the fields. and they'll do it because SOCIALISMS! plus, we can just rework the old serfdom rules and slap a modern shine on 'em. one or two slick advertising campaigns later and they'll LINE UP to join!

/this is what Republicans actually believe.

No it's not.


i18.photobucket.com
 
2012-05-13 01:54:49 PM  
When you depend on a specific group of people to do major labor in any industry, it isn't the wisest move to ban them.

Especially if you don't have anyone else in sufficient quantities willing to do the work.

Fifty years ago, the many citrus groves around here were mainly cared for and harvested by black people. Now, they're cared for by Hispanics. Remove the Hispanics and the citrus industry crashes. Not too many other folks are willing to do that hot, hard, dirty, low paying labor.

Don't you love it when politicians' jump on the band wagon and pass hastily devised laws without considering the long term implications? All they're concerned about is currying voter favor.

BTW. Look for food prices to go up again.

Probably gas too. I know it's unrelated to the problem, but any excuse, no matter how poor, is sufficient to raise the cost of gas.
 
2012-05-13 01:55:20 PM  

Man On A Mission: It's almost as if Americans won't work back-breaking labor for minimum wage or less.


Or they're too farking fat to do the work without dropping dead after an hour. Alabama is second only to Mississippi in obesity-rate rankings.

Seriously, is it any surprise that few Americans can do back-breaking labor? For at least three generations, we've been grooming our kids to get out of that line of work. "No Child Left Behind" to pick lettuce has been our mantra.

So we need foreigners to do what we can't do anymore.
 
2012-05-13 01:55:34 PM  
Well, duh. Picking crops doesn't exactly pay well, and if farmers are forced to jack up their wages, many of them will go out of business. People in first-world countries just aren't going to stand out in the hot sun all day for shiat wages.

You can either let the free market sort it out, and let much of the farming industry move down to Mexico where wages are lower, or let in a ton of migrant workers in the US to pick crops at below market wages. Hire Mexicans here, or hire Mexicans there. The agriculture industry is already heavily subsidized by the government.
 
2012-05-13 01:56:48 PM  
This is a bad year for African and Mexican imports in Alabama.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.
 
2012-05-13 01:56:58 PM  

Mnemia: So what? Our society isn't primarily based on manual labor anymore, so why should it be surprising that most people can't handle it and don't want to do it?


Because it still is based on manual labor, and always will be. The foundation doesn't cease to exist just because you live in the penthouse.

/the concept that the foundation should be elevated to the penthouse is pretty new though
//works about as well as you'd except (i.e. it doesn't, but it does fool a lot of people into thinking it does)
 
2012-05-13 01:58:35 PM  

Rakishi: Mnemia: Your issues here center around the selective restriction of trade, and I agree that this is a problem for American farmers (free trade in labor is restricted, but free trade in the products of the labor is not). That's why I'm suspicious of "free trade" proponents, when what they often really mean is selective, unregulated trade that benefits only corporations. I think part of the solution is intelligent regulation of trade in some areas; in others, it doesn't make sense for every country to produce everything if they can't do it profitably. With that sort of environment, productivity gains from automation, etc is likely the only solution other than going out of business. A business in a high wage country that depends on low wage labor is fundamentally flawed.

The problem is that not all people are equal and higher wage jobs require higher qualifications (including in intelligence). People don't magically change when the job distribution changes.

What happens when 20 or 30% of the population is unemployed because there literally aren't jobs they can do?


Then someone invents a job that they can do, because that's an opportunity to do things that take more unskilled labor. Eventually, wages would fall as people became desperate, and more labor intensive industries would become competitive again.

I don't disagree that that is a huge social problem, which is why I don't support an unregulated free market with no social safety nets, etc. I'm just saying that this is how it works on a basic level. I don't disagree that regulation is needed, if we want to maintain a high standard of living.
 
2012-05-13 01:59:05 PM  

farkreader007: If only there was another group of people who live in the deep south who have a history of agriculture harvesting.


Many of them are in prison, and chain gangs are now coming back.
 
2012-05-13 02:01:47 PM  
I've always been of the opinion that Southerners will kill you for a profit, no matter how small. Slavery, tobacco, stock car racing all fit in this theory. Ever been down route 1 in North Carolina? 'Nuff said
 
2012-05-13 02:04:24 PM  
farmers just have to make the rows wider so all those disgustingly obese 'Real Merkans(tm)' can fit their scooters down the rows. And put a bag o' doritos and a television at the end of each row.
 
2012-05-13 02:05:17 PM  
so the business owners are using less illegal labor that undercuts wages and foists externalizes onto the rest of society that we all have to pay.
labor laws that are designed to protect workers and keep american wages somewhat stable are now being followed?
it is an actual progressive nightmare.
 
2012-05-13 02:05:28 PM  
Mexicans are working their way into Canada. Literally.

Quite some time ago I read an article about Mexican strawberries--instead of exporting the workers they've been growing the strawberries in Mexico and increasingly exporting them.

My sympathies as a liberal naturally go to the underdog, but if you're stupid enough to let prejudice stand between you and self-interest, I'll have a laugh at your expense as well.

All in all it's probably a good thing if Mexicans can find work in their own country at a wage that makes it worth their while to not travel. On the other hand, it's good (for Americans) to have cheap immigrant labour that will go home when the work runs out ("guest workers" they call them in Europe). And when these people send money home to their families they do the most good of all--remittances are bigger money than foreign aid. You ought to be glad that you are getting the work done for next to nothing and improving the world at the same time.

The only people who suffer are the workers and their families--most of these jobs are just so hard and low-paying that even hard-working poor people who are ashamed to go on welfare won't do them because there's no margin--they have to pay directly or indirectly for transportation, work tools, clothing, shelter, food while making dick-all.

It's a market, stupid. Making it less free costs money (but may do good).

The USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are all immigrant economies and depend on a supply of renewable cheap labour. Be glad for the immigrants, even the illegals, because they do more good than harm. I've seen studies. They either show a net gain for American workers or a small loss for the worst paid workers. Either way, most of us First Worlders benefit from cheap prices and plentiful supply as long as we're not tomato pickers ourselves, in which case you are damned if you do and damned if you don't.
 
2012-05-13 02:08:33 PM  
What? They couldn't get their prison slave labor bill passed already? I'm sure they're working on it.
 
2012-05-13 02:08:55 PM  

Tatterdemalian: Mnemia: So what? Our society isn't primarily based on manual labor anymore, so why should it be surprising that most people can't handle it and don't want to do it?

Because it still is based on manual labor, and always will be. The foundation doesn't cease to exist just because you live in the penthouse.

/the concept that the foundation should be elevated to the penthouse is pretty new though
//works about as well as you'd except (i.e. it doesn't, but it does fool a lot of people into thinking it does)


I don't agree. This ignores the effect of advancing technology, which allows us to do more with less manual labor. Even most jobs that are "manual labor" (e.g., coal mining, farming, etc) are much less "manual" than they used to be, because of technology. So in high-tech societies, the "base" really has been elevated above that as far as standard of living. It's true that such societies still depend to a degree on resources, etc from less developed parts of the world, but this isn't fundamental: technology gives us more productivity for less work.

It's true that economic systems may need to change to adapt to this new reality as productivity becomes more decoupled from manual work, but I believe you're wrong to say that it doesn't work. All of human history is a demonstration of it working, in the grand sweep of things.
 
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