Immigration and farm labor: challenges and opportunities
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Hired workers do most of the work on US farms; three-fourths of these workers were born abroad, and most are unauthorized. This article assesses the current state of the labor market for hired workers in fruit and vegetable agriculture and evaluates the options to deal with evolving farm-labor demand, supply, and labor-market operation patterns. If wages were to rise, the most likely response in fruits and vegetables would be labor-saving mechanization and increased imports of labor-intensive commodities, conclusions highlighted by Wallace Huffman (2012) in a series of policy-relevant articles. Cash grain agriculture is already largely mechanized, and labor is a smaller share of production costs, so rising wages would have fewer impacts in cash grains.