By Ryan Velez
Thinking of putting together a nice salad for your end-of-summer cookout? Get going now—as your veggies may be going up in price soon and according to Fortune, you may have the White House to blame. One of President Donald Trump’s most hammered points during his campaign was getting rid of illegal immigrants, in hopes of opening up jobs for Americans. While his policies so far and the fear of more may be driving some away, there are other side effects popping up that he may not have anticipated (even if others did).
Even though Trump’s immigration plan is still in its relative infancy, the current struggle regarding the U.S.’s immigration policies has triggered losses of more than $13 million in two California counties alone, according to NBC News. Why so much and why in California? For one, many of the workers in California’s fields are born outside the country, mostly in Mexico. However, at the moment, more Mexicans are leaving the U.S. rather than coming in. This is due partially to stricter policies, but it's also part of a longer trend of families going to Mexico that has started around the Great Recession. The farmers caught in the middle are trying to do their best to make jobs more appealing, offering salaries above minimum wage, paid time off and 401k plans, but it’s not enough to keep workers staying, or bring new ones in at a needed rate. As a result, many crops are rotting in the fields, unpicked, which means waste for farmers and higher prices at the grocery store.
To be fair, this snapshot doesn’t make clear how much other farms across the country are affected in a similar manner. Overall changes countrywide would be more likely to make an impact that end consumers of farm products can see. In addition, drought and flooding have a bigger impact on farms than worker shortages. If oil prices are low, the two factors may even offset.
What we do need to look at is the fact that farmers are already reeling in terms of income, with net income dropping 50% since 2013. Any further lost income could be devastating, and depending on how long and how large the worker shortage is, we may find ourselves dealing with a situation on American farms that is unprecedented.