Farm Industry Is Being Forced to Replace Illegal Workforce

Article author: 
Neil Munro
Article publisher: 
Article date: 
22 February 2019
Article category: 
National News
Article Body: 
American farm companies are gradually replacing their illegal migrant workforce with machinery and with legal temporary workers, according to the Washington Post.
This shift is a win for President Donald Trump’s “Hire American” policy because it helps raise Americans’ productivity and wealth. The shift also lowers the annual flow of illegal migrants through the farm industry and into U.S. towns, cities, and politics....
Farm companies are importing more temporary visa workers via the H-2A program. In 2016, farm companies hired 165,000 temporary workers via the H2A program. In 2018, the number rose to 242,000 H-2A workers, who are expected to return home after 10 months of work.
But many farmers complain the H-2A workers are too expensive and have pushed Congress to create an “H-2C” program to deliver cheaper farm workers. That lobbying push failed in 2018, forcing farms back towards the H-2A program and greater use of machines....
But automating the strawberry picking is a difficult technology task — especially because migrants do the work rapidly, cheaply, and carefully to prevent damaging the delicate strawberries. The Washington Post article described field tests with a robot named “Harv”:
During a test run last year, Harv gathered just 20 percent of strawberries on every plant without mishap. This year’s goal: Harvest half of the fruit without crushing or dropping any. The human success rate is closer to 80 percent, making Harv the underdog in this competition.…
One Harv is programmed to do the work of 30 people. The machine hovers over a dozen rows of plants at the same time, picking five strawberries every second and covering eight acres a day....
... many major U.S. companies ally with foreign outsourcing firms to keep at least 1.5 million foreign college-graduates — including at least 650,000 H-1B workers — in the jobs sought by U.S. college graduates. That business strategy is made possible by government labor policy, and it spikes Wall Street values, shrinks salaries, and steers middle-class Americans away from technology jobs....


Strawberry Picker Could Replace Human Workers Next Year, Limits to Growth, February 21, 2019.

Pain from Automation Job Loss Will Hit the Third World Harder, Limits to Growth, January 31, 2019.

Robots Are Ready for Next Financial Slump, Limits to Growth, January 26, 2019.

Automation May Eliminate 30 to 40 Million American Jobs,  Limits to Growth, January 18, 2019.