Vegetable prices may be going up soon, as a shortage of migrant workers is resulting in lost crops in California.
Farmers say they’re having trouble hiring enough people to work during harvest season, causing some crops to rot before they can be picked. Already, the situation has triggered losses of more than $13 million in two California counties alone, according to NBC News.
The ongoing battle about U.S. immigration policies is blamed for the shortage. The vast majority of California’s farm workers are foreign born, with many coming from Mexico. However, the PEW Research Center reports more Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than coming here.
To make the jobs more attractive, farmers are offering salaries above minimum wage, along with paid time off and 401(k) plans, but even that’s not proving enough.
It’s unclear exactly how widespread the labor shortage is for farmers throughout the country, which would have a bigger impact on prices consumers pay. Ultimately, drought and flooding have a more significant impact on farms. Low oil prices could also offset any impact of the worker shortage.
But for farmers, who have seen net farm income fall 50% since 2013, any lost income could be potentially devastating.