You’ve been granted free access to this subscribers only article.
Agricultural labor has no ‘one size fits all’ solution
By Gene Hall
I am a big fan of Dr. Thomas Sowell, a free market economist, except when he starts talking about agricultural labor and immigration reform.
Dr. Sowell’s support of the free market is something I appreciate most of the time. His latest article, however, challenging a “need” for workers in agriculture, has missed the target. He wrote that we don’t need immigration reform and a guest worker program for agriculture. In his opinion, paying more for labor will get you plenty of American workers.
Dr. Sowell missed the point and for the same reasons everyone else does.
Farmers cannot raise their prices to cover increased costs. Unlike the guy with the price label gun moving down the aisles at the grocery store, farmers must take the prevailing price, or not sell at all. It’s a system with many sellers (farmers) and not that many buyers. If Farmer Jones is not willing to sell at the prevailing market price, then the buyer moves down the road to Farmer Smith or Farmer Brown, both of whom will sell. Of course, Farmer Jones knows this. He too will sell, or incur the costs of storing the grain until he gets his price. With operating loans and other bills to pay, many farmers must sell. Farmers have mechanized due to labor challenges, but not every crop lends itself to that.
Agricultural prices respond to supply and demand like everything else, but profit margins are almost always razor thin. Often, it’s difficult to raise wages high enough to lure Americans out of the air conditioning and into the fields. Law-abiding farmers and ranchers find themselves in a jam. They can follow the strict letter of the law and fail to produce food the world needs or hire workers they can’t document and respond to their high calling of feeding their fellow man. We’ve got to stop this lose-lose scenario.
Both sides of our current political dysfunction have a tendency to reduce our problems to a “one size fits all” solution. Immigration reform and agricultural labor defy most attempts to shoehorn the issues into such a solution.
Gene Hall is the public relations director for Texas Farm Bureau.
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to comment on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Agriculture Today Archives
Beef cattle seven-year decline ends (May 18, 2016)
Educational video for water well owners (May 18, 2016)
Free Beef Quality Assurance training set for May 25 (May 18, 2016)
Fretwell wins Region 8 high school all around rookie saddle (May 18, 2016)
Grant to restore, enhance the monarch butterfly habitat (May 18, 2016)
Grass-fed beef conference (May 18, 2016)
Gun safety and barbecue in New Braunfels (May 18, 2016)
La Vernia Poultry Judging wins state, advances to nationals (May 18, 2016)
Lawn, landscape, rainwater program May 21 in Floresville (May 18, 2016)
Lesser prairie chicken off the list (May 18, 2016)
Livestock Market Reports (May 18, 2016)
Luling Foundation Field Day (May 18, 2016)
Protecting your tomatoes (May 18, 2016)
TDA Market Recap (May 18, 2016)
Texas Hay Report (May 18, 2016)
As El Nińo fades, expect warmer, drier weather says Texas A&M expert (May 11, 2016)
Floresville team wins second at state (May 11, 2016)
Livestock Market Reports (May 11, 2016)
Llamas, load up! (May 11, 2016)
TDA Market Recap (May 11, 2016)
Texas Hay Report (May 11, 2016)
Transplanting mountain laurels (May 11, 2016)
2016 La Vernia Junior Livestock & Poultry Show (May 4, 2016)
Beef, forage symposium May 10 (May 4, 2016)
Cattle raisers’ crime watch (May 4, 2016)
Corn acreage increases in Texas (May 4, 2016)
Help controlling the weeds (May 4, 2016)
Krueger leads the way at La Vernia stock show (May 4, 2016)
Land Heritage nomination deadline nears (May 4, 2016)
Livestock Market Reports (May 4, 2016)
TDA Market Recap (May 4, 2016)
Texas Hay Report (May 4, 2016)
May 2016 Gardening Calendar (May 1, 2016)