Unbeknownst to most Americans, the Central Valley of California is an agricultural powerhouse producing nearly 50% of all fruits and vegetables grown in the United States, including over 90% of popular items like almonds, carrots and table grapes. But producing all those fruits and vegetables is extremely labor intensive requiring up to nearly 500,000 laborers each year. The problem is that those jobs are extremely seasonal (see chart below) and extremely difficult requiring hours of back-breaking work in the 100-degree California sun.
Needless to say, America's snowflakes have no interest in such "back-breaking" work and so California farmers have grown reliant on migrant labor from Mexico to grow and harvest their crops. Which is why Trump's deportation vows have California's farmers a bit concerned.
As one farm labor contractor told the Associated Press, farmers are growing increasingly concerned that there won't be enough labor for the 2017 season.
"Our workers are scared," said Joe Garcia, a farm labor contractor who hires up to 4,000 people each year to pick grapes from Napa to Bakersfield and along the Central Coast. "If they're concerned, we're concerned."
Since Election Day, Garcia's crews throughout the state have been asking what will happen to them when Trump takes office. Farmers also are calling to see if they'll need to pay more to attract people to prune the vines, he said.
Garcia tells farmers not to panic. They'll learn how many return from Mexico after the holidays. "We'll plan around what we have," he tells them. "That's all we can do."
But some farmers are planning for the worst and investing additional capital now to make their operations more labor efficient. Fresno farmer Kevin Herman said he's heard too many stories of workers that don't plan to return from their holiday trips to Mexico for the 2017 ag season.
Days after Donald Trump won the White House vowing to deport millions of people in the country illegally and fortify the Mexican border, California farmer Kevin Herman ordered nearly $600,000 in new equipment, cutting the number of workers he'll need starting with the next harvest.
Herman, who grows figs, persimmons and almonds in the nation's most productive farming state, said Trump's comments pushed him to make the purchase, larger than he would have otherwise.
Plus, Herman said, he's heard too many workers question whether they'll return from their holiday trips to Mexico. "It's stories like that that have motivated me to become efficient and upgrade my equipment," Herman said.
"No doubt about it," Herman said. "I probably wouldn't have spent as much or bought as much machinery as I did."
Of course, there is a clearing labor price for America's snowflakes to take these jobs provided Americans are willing to pay double for their tomatoes and carrots. That said, we suspect moving production to Mexico and importing food to U.S. supermarkets, even with Trump's 35% tariff, is the more economical solution.