The NY Times is reporting today that some American farmers are moving operations south of the border, to Mexico and Central America, because of the problems tied to illegal immigration. No longer able to rely on a steady stream of migrant workers, and fearing government raids on those who employ such workers, the farmers are finding it more feasible to grow crops outside the U.S.:
In the past, some Americans have planted south of the border to escape spiraling land prices and to ensure year-round deliveries of crops they can produce only seasonally in the United States. But in the last three years, Mr. Nassif and other growers said, labor force uncertainties have become a major reason farmers have shifted to Mexico.
Market realities, of course:
Tramping through one of his first lettuce crops near Celaya, an agribusiness hub in Guanajuato, Mr. Scaroni is more candid than many farmers about his move here. He had made six trips to Washington, he said, to plead with Congress to provide more legal immigrants for agriculture.
â€œI have a customer base that demands we produce and deliver product every day,â€ he said. â€œThey donâ€™t want to hear the excuses.â€ He acknowledges that wages are much lower in Mexico; he pays $11 a day here as opposed to about $9 an hour in California. But without legal workers in California, he said, â€œI have no choice but to offshore my operation.â€
It’s an interesting dynamic: many of these jobs probably weren’t held by Americans anyway, but they did contribute to the economy. Many of them were likely taxed on their wages. But, regardless of the workers’ status, I can’t believe this is anything but a step in the wrong direction.