A Dearth of Agricultural Workers?

Press accounts abound of the problems of agricultural producers who cannot find workers to harvest their crops. Even NYC Mayor Bloomberg, who has a penchant for pontificating about things of which he has little or no knowledge, jumped on this bandwagon in the CNN special report on immigration on June 10 when he cited the problems of farmers abandoning crops to rot for lack of workers.

Usually not mentioned in these stories – as it was not in the CNN report – is the fact that a legal agricultural guest worker program exists that can bring in an unlimited number of foreign workers if U.S. workers are unavailable. An exception to this generalization was published by the Independent Mail in South Carolina on June 8, 2012. This article, circulated by Scripps Howard News Service, notes that the H-2A visa program for agricultural workers exists, but, “If he used the program … he would have to increase his employees’ wages to $9.50 an hour from an estimated $7.67, which is the minimum wage in Florida.”

The article explains that the salary requirement results from a provision that is regulated by the U.S. Department of Labor that is intended to assure, “…that the employment of aliens will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.”
The other issue generally ignored in these news accounts of a shortage of agricultural workers is the fact that because of the depressed wages in agricultural labor – which has resulted from the abundant supply of illegal aliens in that economic sector – and the fact that illegal alien workers have gained ground in obtaining jobs in construction and services that pay higher wages, even illegal alien workers increasingly shun agricultural work if they can find other jobs.

About Author


Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).


  1. avatar

    Karen is right, if something isn’t done, we will become a Third World country. Just look at California, I grew up there and it used to be a paradize. Now, it’s a nightmare, over-crowded, crime ridden, and on the brink of a financial meltdowm.

  2. avatar
    Adolfo Costa on

    Does Obama pretend to govern by executive orders like Chaves in Venezuela, Fidel in Cuba, Correa in Ecuador, Ortega in Nicaragua and other totalitarians of the like? Here goes the saying: “Birds of a feather fly together”.

  3. avatar

    Then there was the story last year about the Washington State Apple Orchard that advertised in several States for apple pickers at $20.00 a hour, and couldn’t get anyone or enought workers so had to fly Jamacians in and hire them. NOW, as a older worker, who put myself through college picking cherries and apples, one has to ask “Where are the college kids and environmental unemployment lists who supposedly look for jobs and can’t find them? Actually, the answer is simple. When you can make $20.00 a hour, babysitting, housecleaning, or just “too good” for manual labor. And once many States started allowing illegals and citizens on the welfare, disability and food stamp rolls, the incentive for working above board jobs where wages might be taxed, FiCA’d, and deductions taken for lower take home pay. The pressure to get out and work totally disappears. FACTS

    Your 100% right about the engineers and during the last immigration “reform” the arguments over how many technical workers to allow into the country, as opposed to the agricultural workers and how many from each country, got to the point of totally ridiculous. Yet engineers and skilled labor citizens now on Unemployment Rolls, will say they can’t find jobs because business doesn’t want older experienced workers as opposed to newer college grads, or they can’t find jobs making the same as at their old jobs. One reason many Americans fought the Dream ACt, was that its the same arguments with the same special interest groups driving the reform and numbers arguments everytime, with the issue that even after reform, if you don’t have a fence or control of entry, none of the numbers get adhered to, nor do we ever “control” the number that continue to come in illegally and without accountability. DISTFUNCTIONAL lawmaking and enforcement, make law a joke at every level, and disrespect for law becomes thr rule rather than the exception. Even “Hispanics” older than say 20 years, know the past reforms didn’t work and were never enforced, due to lack of money and control of the border. ”
    Good Fences make for Good Neighbors, ” and building a good 20 foot concrete fence does not mean they will drag a 21 foot ladder across the desert and be unseen by camera’s and drones. It means Governors who encouraged illegals and illegal voting, had better media for their addages and sloguns. Then there is the Environmental Protection Agency disallowing a fence nor border patrol vehicles, where habitat may be endangered! Dont get me started! What happened to the “can do nation” rather than the current “you can’t do that” lawyerise and regulation by ignorant lawmakers who don’t care about the General WElfare?

  4. avatar

    American Taxpayers are STUPID! I live next to the Border, I see ag workers come accross in nice cars(Baja plates)
    they get $10-14.00 hr $1.00 = 14.00 pecos, X 8= 112 ,a day. Mex. everything is CHEAPER, gas, housing
    plus watch every 1st of the month How many are @ the Banks or P.O. collecting their EBT cards(welfare)
    Our local Hospital Emergency Dept.s are over ran with illegals getting FREE care! TAXPAYERS PAY!!
    They(illegals) run back & forth accross the Borders taking & sharing the FREEBEES with famila.

    Obama is allowing 800,000 to stay here, that means their families,too. All are going to collect FREE:
    Housing(Sec.8), Food Stamps, Elec. Oh, yes free cell phones and finally the Taxpayers will pay to
    send the 800,000 + their kids to COLLEGE, that will take ALL the high paying JOBS.
    They will all (illegally) vote MEX. so there goes our USA. Now How do ya feel ?? are ya working,yet??

    • avatar

      So when the hell are we going to STOP comp;aining, and really do something? Where are all the people who run these websites asking for money to fight these invaders in congress. but then nothing ever comes of it? It is going to be too late if WE don’t organize and do something pretty quick! I will not live in a country run by third-world people. I would rather live in Canada, cause we are the Only country dumb enough to put up with this, not to mention, paying for it too! Dear LORD HELP US ALL!!!!!!

  5. avatar
    Richard Harris on

    All this poor mouthing about labor is just balderdash anyway. I can remember Bill Gates talking at a conference with Sen. Ted Kennedy about 7 years ago crybabying that there were no software engineers available in this country. Well it was just an abjectly naked, lie. This country puts out 200,000 university technical grads a year that cannot find a job. Gates was just a bare-faced liar. I think we have the same subterfuge being perpetrated here by agricultural employers. Lie, lie, lie. The fools are sucked in by the lies, and the liars are snickering all the way to the bank.