Wines & Vines Home
   
 
Welcome Guest
LOGIN |  CREATE ACCOUNT
 
 
July 2014 Issue of Wines & Vines
 
SUBSCRIBE   »
 

Labor Decline at Odds With Immigration Reform

 
by Andrew Adams
 
 
Mexico labor decline
 
The number of farm laborers in Mexico declined by nearly 2 million between 1995 and 2010. Photo: Agricultural and Resource Economics Update

San Rafael, Calif.—With mid-term elections looming in November, advocates for immigration reform are hoping that the U.S. House of Representatives can reach an agreement on legislation this summer. An expert in agricultural economics, however, contends any immigration reform law would be a short-term measure that can’t change one simple but important reality: There are fewer immigrants seeking farm work in the United States.

Last year the U.S. Senate approved its own immigration reform bill (SB 744), but immigration reform stalled in the House.

Jason Resnick is the vice president and general counsel of Western Growers, a trade association that represents fruit and vegetable farmers throughout the western United States and has been a strong advocate for immigration reform.

Speaking to Wines & Vines in early June, Resnick said he and the group’s board members had just returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., where they met with two-dozen senior members of the House of Representatives. He said there was some acknowledgment by Republican leaders that approving the bill would be good for their supporters in agriculture and the economy in general.

If reform is going to happen this year, a law will need to be passed this summer, before lawmakers adjourn for the August recess and before the election season in the fall puts pressure on Republicans to appease constituents opposed to immigration reform. “We think that’s really a critical time to move immigration,” Resnick said. “If it’s going to happen this year, it has to happen this summer.”

Resnick said his group would like to see an efficient visa program for foreign farm workers and a path toward legal status for workers already in the country illegally. He said to earn legal status, workers should have to pay a fine, prove they are current with their tax obligations and go through an application process. “Many of those workers, those existing workers, are some of the most important employees on our farms,” he said. “They’ve become supervisors and foremen and really critical employees—and not only on the farm but important members of the community.”

Changing immigration laws in the United States will help, argues J. Edward Taylor, a professor at the University of California, Davis, and director of Rural Economics of the Americas and Pacific Rim, but it cannot change the reality that the immigrant labor pool is essentially drying up. “The immigration debate in Washington, D.C., as it pertains to agriculture, continues to assume that immigration is the solution to the U.S. farm labor problem,” he said. “Our work strongly suggests that immigration reforms offer farmers a short-term, stopgap solution, at best.”

Mexico’s farm workforce declined by nearly 2 million people between 1995 and 2010, meanwhile average incomes steadily increased, birth rates decreased, and rural residents gained better access to education. As Mexico becomes more affluent and better educated, its residents are leaving farm work at home and abroad. Far fewer (if any) Mexicans aspire to be seasonal farm workers in the United States, according to Taylor’s research.

Taylor notes that the trend of people leaving farm labor as per-capita income increases is seen in all countries over time. This shift happened in the United States during the mid-1900s, and Mexico was there to fill the need for farm workers. Mexico also is exporting more food to the United States, placing more demand on the country’s decreasing supply of farm workers. “In fact, Mexico now imports farm workers from Guatemala. It is in a transition phase of being both an exporter and importer of farm labor,” Taylor says.

He argues that while Mexico can import some of its needed labor from Guatemala and other Central American nations, the shift away from farm labor is happening even more quickly in those smaller economies. Instead of finding the next Mexico, or another source of affordable foreign labor, U.S. farms will have to become as efficient as possible with fewer workers by investing in new machinery or transitioning to less labor-intensive crops.

He said the wine and grape industries are already a few steps ahead because growers have become more open to technology. “In California, wine grape production has mechanized quite a bit, which is good news,” Taylor said.

Resnick agreed there are fewer available workers because the Mexican farm labor supply is declining, but he said such a decline is happening slowly and is a “10-year-plus proposition.”

Rayne Pegg, manager of federal policy for the California Farm Bureau, said the bureau is actively pushing for the House to pass some type of bill this summer in the hope that both Houses of Congress have legislation for conference.

She said growers throughout California and the nation are grappling with a lack of labor, and that is the result of many forces including demographic changes in Mexico. Even if there are fewer workers coming from Mexico, Pegg said the laws would need to be changed so the demand for workers could be filled from other countries in Central and South America. “America’s labor policies have to change regardless of where that labor is coming from,” she said. “Our system right now is just encouraging an underground economy.”

 
SHARE   »
Print this page   PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION   »
E-mail this article   E-MAIL THIS ARTICLE   »
Close
 
Currently no comments posted for this article.
 
CURRENT MONTH'S FEATURES INDEX »


 
Wines & Vines Home
 
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
info@winesandvines.com
Wine Industry Metrics
 
Off-Premise Sales » Month   12 Months  
September 2014 $575 million
5%
$7,743 million
6%
September 2013 $550 million $7,311 million
     
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
September 2014 $163 million
16%
$1,708 million
11%
September 2013 $141 million $1,538 million
     
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
September 2014 166
14%
226
18%
September 2013 145 192
     
 
MORE » Released on 10.15.2014
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
 
Search the PWV archive »
 
 

Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
2014
 
Download full report »
 
 

CALENDAR
  • October 26
     
    Pinot on the River
     
  • November 1-2
     
    A Wine & Food Affair
     
  • November 1-2
     
    Temecula Harvest Celebration Barrel Tasting
     
  • November 5
     
    Single Vineyard Night
     
  • MORE »
 

READER COMMENTS
 
Article: Tasting Wine From PD-Resistant Grapes »
 
Congratulations Andy! Lots of grapebreeders and southern growers will be looking through the catalogs. i...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: The 'Sideways' Effect »
 
Thank you for this research that confirms what many thought about the pinot noir effect....
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Fine for Volunteer Labor Makes Wineries Wary »
 
This is so incredibly asinine. And my taxes go to help fund these over-reaches? No...
Reader: Philburtonj
 
Article: Paso Winegrowers Back on TTB Track »
 
Unfortunately, they will be named Drought sinkhole #1, #2, #3, etc. Really, 11 different flavor profiles...
Reader: Donn Rutkoff
 
Article: Optimization of limited water resources in irrigated vineyards »
 
Very interesting article! Sap flow monitoring was in the past mostly used for research but...
Reader: Virginie Scoarnec
 
 


Directory/Buyer's Guide — Your Wine Industry Marketplace
 
 
WINERY SEARCH
 
 
Advanced Search »
SUPPLIER SEARCH
   by Product
 by Company Name or Brand
 
Browse by Category »
2015 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
 
 
EXPANDED ONLINE SEARCH INCLUDED WITH PURCHASE
 
ORDER NOW »
 
LEARN MORE »
 
 
Wines & Vines Magazine
 
 
LEARN MORE »
 
SUBSCRIBE »
 
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
 
LEARN MORE »
 
ORDER NOW »
 
 
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
 
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
 
FREE LIVE DEMO »
 
VIEW VIDEO »
 
 
 
 
Latest Job Listings
 It/Operations Manager
 Napa, CA
General Administration and
 It Assistant
 Napa, CA
General Administration and
 Shipping & Receiving C...
 Napa, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Consumer Sales Coordin...
 Healdsburg, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Tasting Room Lead
 Hendersonville, NC
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Bottling Supervisor - ...
 Woodinville, WA
Winemaking and Production
 Team Member
 Healdsburg, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Tasting Room Sales Ass...
 Yakima, WA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Sales Professional (On...
 Vacaville-Fairfield-Davis, CA
Sales and Marketing
 National Sales
 Napa Valley, CA
Sales and Marketing
 
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:
 
 





Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
 
 
Copyright © 2001-2014 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.