Wines & Vines Home
   
 
Welcome Guest
LOGIN |  CREATE ACCOUNT
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 
 
06.02.2014  
 

Labor Shortage Beyond Immigration Reform

Era of affordable, available labor coming to an end, economist says

 
by Andrew Adams
 
 
“grape
 
Better access to education in Mexico during the past two decades has led to a reduced number of farm laborers available to work in the United States.
San Rafael, Calif.—Reforming U.S. immigration law may alleviate the shortage of available farm workers for the short term, but changing laws and opening up the border cannot change the reality that the immigrant labor pool is essentially running dry, according to an agricultural economics expert.

“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,” said J. Edward Taylor, a professor and the director of Rural Economics and Pacific Rim at the University of California, Davis. “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, birthrates decreased, and rural residents had 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 will be discussing his work Tuesday during a seminar hosted by the Oregon Wine Research Institute from 3:30 p.m. until 5 p.m. on the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis, Ore. A live stream of Taylor’s remarks will be available at live.oregonstate.edu.

‘Era of farm labor abundance’
Writing for the journal Agricultural and Resource Economics Update, 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.

Taylor 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,” he said.

Vineyards also have a built-in advantage in that they provide work in addition to harvest such as pruning. “Stable jobs are relatively attractive and put wine grape production in a better position to compete for a dwindling supply of farm labor than, say, hand-picked fruits and vegetables, particularly those with a short harvest window.”

The changes in Mexico reflect a structural shift in the country’s economy. Labor shortages around the spring or summer in recent years have been attributed to tighter border control, the recession and violence from Mexico’s drug cartels.

Taylor points out, however, that of new immigrants, only 9% between 2007 and 2009 were crop workers (compared to a quarter between 1998 and 2000). This decrease over time is not reflected in non-farm labor.

Loosening the border would ease the shortage in the short term, but it would just be a temporary measure, he said. “U.S. immigration policies cannot change the reality that Mexico’s workforce is moving out of agriculture.”

Last summer, the U.S. Senate approved a bill to reform immigration laws in the United States, and it was hoped by those in agriculture and the wine industry that the House of Representatives would soon follow suit. That hope quickly died when it became clear that members of the Republican Party couldn’t reconcile on passing immigration reform to help the economy versus tightening the border.

President Barack Obama announced in late May that he had directed the Office of Homeland Security to postpone a review of deportations of immigrants in the country illegally. In doing so, administration officials said it would give House Republicans time to find a resolution for immigration reform.

Like a reservoir during a drought
If Congress ever reaches a consensus on immigration reform, it may well be too late.  “Our finding of a diminishing supply of farm labor from rural Mexico suggests that in the medium to long run, if not sooner, farmers will have to take other measures to adjust to a smaller farm workforce.”

As the number of available workers continues to diminish, Taylor said relations between farmers and labor contractors will become even more important. He likened the situation to a reservoir during a drought: The furthest and most remote corners dry up first. “That could mean that states closer to the Mexican border and agricultural areas with a longer history of being connected with farm labor networks will be in a better position to compete.”
 

 

SHARE »
Close
 
Currently no comments posted for this article.
 
CURRENT NEWS 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  
June 2014 $562 million
5%
$7,549 million
6%
June 2013 $535 million $7,094 million
     
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
June 2014 $87 million
17%
$1,669 million
11%
June 2013 $74 million $1,510 million
     
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
June 2014 300
34%
220
21%
June 2013 224 182
     
 
MORE » Released on 07.15.2014
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wines & Vines
Packaging Conference
 
Learn More »
 
 

Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
 
Search the PWV archive »
 
 

Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
2014
 
Download full report »
 
 

CALENDAR
  • July 29
     
    Organic Winegrowing Conference
     
  • July 30
     
    Sweet and Fortified Wine Association Meeting
     
  • July 30 - August 1
     
    Indy International Wine Competition
     
  • August 1-3
     
    West of West Festival
     
  • MORE »
 

READER COMMENTS
 
Article: Wineries May Lose Internet Domain Dispute »
 
All these arguments could be levied by any industry associated with any gTLD, new or...
Reader: Doug Barnett
 
Article: Wineries May Lose Internet Domain Dispute »
 
Do brands get hijacked now? Even though .wine does not yet exist, are there false...
Reader: Larry Chandler
 
Article: Resistant Weeds Threaten Vineyards »
 
Roundup is not benign. It does not always break down in a day or two...
Reader: Robert Rex
 
Article: Resistant Weeds Threaten Vineyards »
 
Mitigating water use in the vineyard in the first place is also an applicable tactic....
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Resistant Weeds Threaten Vineyards »
 
Having managed vineyards that have used both approaches, I would say that a diverse approach...
Reader: Guest
 
 


Directory/Buyer's Guide — Your Wine Industry Marketplace
 
 
WINERY SEARCH
 
 
Advanced Search »
SUPPLIER SEARCH
   by Product
 by Company Name or Brand
 
Browse by Category »
2014 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
 Harvest Cellar Staff 2...
 Santa Rosa, CA
Winemaking and Production
 Server
 Healdsburg, CA
General Administration and
 Tasting Room/Guest Rel...
 Sonoma, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Harvest Intern
 Napa, CA
Winemaking and Production
 Sales Position-Metro B...
 Boston, MA
Sales and Marketing
 Viticulture Harvest In...
 Napa And Sonoma Counties, CA
Vineyards
 District Manager - Met...
 New York, NY
Sales and Marketing
 Director Of Spirits
 Tampa, FL
Sales and Marketing
 Vip Hospitality Concie...
 Napa, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Director Of Winery Rel...
 St. Helena, 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.