Stricter immigration enforcement would likely reduce the demand for farm labor and increase the mechanization of California agriculture, according to a new study co-authored by a UC Davis economist.
The study, released Monday, says crackdowns on undocumented farm workers will simply raise the cost of farm labor. Growers will respond by substituting labor-saving machinery. Imports of produce from lower-cost locations may increase, too.
Written by Philip Martin of UC Davis and Linda Calvin, an economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the study examines the state's $20 billion-a-year fruit, vegetable and nut industry.
"The California produce industry depends on a constant influx of new, foreign-born labor attracted by wages above those in their countries of origin, primarily Mexico," the authors write. "Enforcement of immigration laws or immigration reform could raise labor costs."
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Produce growers in California hire about 374,000 workers a year, the study says. A USDA survey conducted between 2005 and 2007 concluded that more than half of those workers were undocumented.
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