California Farms Hike U.S. Wages, Increasingly Use Automation Thanks to Shortage of Foreign Workers

A farm worker drives a tractor through the a vineyard during harvest 09 October 2006 at the Byron Vineyard and Winery in Santa Maria, California. Cooler weather earlier this year delayed the ripening of grapes at many Central Coast vineyards. (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

California farms are hiking wages for U.S. workers and increasingly relying on automation and robots thanks to a shortage of foreign workers in President Donald Trump’s “Hire American” economy.

A survey by the California Farm Bureau Federation — which interviewed more than 1,000 farmers in the state — reveals that farmers are increasing workers’ pay and turning more and more to automation due to increased interior immigration enforcement.

“Farmers in California as well as throughout the United States have been forthright about the fact that they rely on a largely immigrant workforce,” the survey concluded. “Our survey shows that farmers face new challenges related to employee availability. It offers insight into the means farmers use to adjust to this reality. Farmers are paying higher wages and their farming practices are changing in response to reduced employee availability.”

The survey found that 86 percent of farmers surveyed said they had increased wages to attract workers. Another 56 percent of farmers said they had turned to labor-saving technology to make up for the loss of readily available foreign workers, who are often times living illegally in the U.S.

Of the farmers who said they had moved to automation for farm work, about 56 percent said they did so because they were not able to find enough workers to fill jobs.

“Farmers are becoming more reliant on technology due to rising wages and increased farm employee scarcity,” the survey stated.

While farmers have lobbied for amnesty for their illegal farm workers, as well as more legal immigration to supply them with a steady flow of cheap foreign workers, fully autonomous farms are making headway sooner than previously predicted.

A Bloomberg report this week notes how fully automated farm equipment is soon to be commercially available that will allow U.S. farmers to automate grueling tasks like spraying, planting, and picking crops, as well as driving tractors.

Already, a small start-up company in California has created a fully autonomous hydroponic farm and is now selling their produce.

Every year, the U.S. admits about 1.2 million mostly low-skilled legal immigrants to compete against working and middle-class Americans for an hourly wage and entry-level jobs. This is on top of the hundreds of thousands of H-2A foreign visa workers who are brought to the country every year to take blue-collar farm jobs.

John Binder is a reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter at @JxhnBinder


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