Wednesday, October 04, 2006

(Not) Reaping What you Sow

So the Washington Post is reporting that farms and orchards in California are not able to harvest all of their crops due to a shortage of labor. Specifically, of immigrant labor, often times non-documented and illegal. I can't say that I am too upset over all of it, as I see it as a maturing of the labor market, as many of the people that formerly did agricultural work part time during harvest season are now getting full-time jobs in construction or hospitality that pays more overall. This is pretty basic economics, where people are assumed to take jobs where they can make the most money. I agree with the farmers that there should be some sort of ability for non-residents to come to the USA part time and legally work at various jobs, but it is also true that if you can't find people to do the work, you must raise your wages to attract people to actually do the work. Yes, this might mean you have to raise prices on your customers, to cover your costs. Yes, this might mean that your fruit isn't really cost-competitive against fruit from, say, Chile. OK, deal with it. Tell me why I would want to buy your fruit, anyway. What makes it better? Is it? If not, then your choice is clear, you just don't want to face it. Historically, food in the US these days is really inexpensive, as a portion of total expenses we have. Maybe this historical aberration is getting ready to end?

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