May 30, 2017


To keep crops from rotting in the field, farmers say they need Trump to let in more temporary workers (GEOFFREY MOHAN, MAY 25, 2017, LA Times)

Consumer tastes for fresh strawberries and leaf lettuce -- two of the state's most stubbornly labor-intensive crops -- have driven the boom along a coastal corridor from the Salinas Valley in Monterey County through the Oxnard Plain in Ventura County, according to the Times analysis. In the Santa Maria Valley alone, the number of agricultural guest workers catapulted from six sheepherders in 2012 to more than 2,000 laborers last year.

If growers have their way, they will get even more under the visa program known as H-2A and face fewer barriers, delays and regulations.

To do so, they will have to ask President Trump to put an asterisk on his "America first" economic agenda, which promises to crack down on immigration as a way of opening up jobs for Americans.

"I think he has the same philosophy that we've had for years, and that is: If you let them in the front door, they won't have to sneak around and go through the back door," said Tom Nassif, president and chief executive of the Western Growers Assn. and a member of Trump's agricultural advisory committee.

Nassif believes that the president is ready to swing open the "big beautiful door" he promised in his border wall, even before he builds it, and even as he threatens to crack down on visas for high-tech jobs.

"It's the only option out there," said Steve Scaroni, owner of Fresh Harvest Inc., the state's biggest contractor of guest workers. "There is no other option."

That's because non-immigrant Americans are not eager to pick crops, despite wages that are rising faster than the state average, according to a Times analysis.

Meanwhile, the largely immigrant farmworkers already here -- half of whom are believed to have crossed the border illegally -- are getting older and moving to other jobs, or lying low in fear of deportation.

And they're not being replenished with fresh immigrants. The border has become too difficult to cross, Mexico's birth rate has plummeted and new economic opportunities have opened for the rural population that used to leave for the United States, immigration experts say.

Growers say foreign guest laborers have largely kept their crops from rotting in the field -- though several growers have lost millions of dollars over the last few years.

Posted by at May 30, 2017 6:02 AM