New immigration policies are punishing American farmers, and citizens nationwide could be seeing the effects in their grocery bills – soon.
You see, American farmers are facing a serious labor shortage, resulting in devastating crop loss across the country.
The culprit: a nationwide crackdown on illegal immigration.
"The ongoing battle about U.S. immigration policies is blamed for the shortage," reported Fortune on Aug. 8.
And California – one of the country's largest producers of fruits, nuts, and dairy – is getting hit hardest.
Just take a look at San Luis Obispo County, for example…
Farmers See Worker Shortage as Harvest Begins
American farmers' primary supply of help – migrant workers – is rapidly diminishing.
"Over the last couple of years, we haven't been able to harvest between 15-20% of our crops," said Tom Ikeda, owner of Ikeda Brothers Farm, to NBC Nightly News.
Ikeda Brothers is a produce farm in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., that has been in business for over 90 years. But this year, the farm's over 1,000 acres of vegetables are not likely to make it to market.
"This year really hit hard," said Tom. "On a daily basis, with a harvest crew of 16 people, I may get all 16… I may get 9."
"You never know how many people are going to show up to work."
The serious labor shortage facing crop-heavy states like California has accelerated this year as the Trump administration continues to crack down on illegal immigration.
Nine out of every 10 farm workers in California are foreign-born, and many are from Mexico, reports NBC.
But according to the PEW Research Center, more Mexican immigrants are leaving the United States than arriving.
In 2007, there were 12.8 million Mexican immigrants in America. By 2014, that number was down to 11.7 million.
And now, the labor shortage is so severe that entire fields of crops are going unharvested.
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In fact, the situation has caused losses of over $13 million so far – and that's just in two California counties alone, according to NBC.
"[The crackdown on immigration] has absolutely been detrimental to the agricultural community to be able to continue to grow and harvest the fruits and vegetables," said Claire Wineman, from the Grower-Shipping Association of Santa Barbara/San Luis Obispo County, to NBC. "It made it difficult to have day-to-day certainty."
"I think there is a little more fear now because of the unknown [for migrant workers]," added Tom.
Now, American farmers are trying to attract workers to the field by offering competitive incentives, like salaries above minimum wage along with paid time off. Some are even offering 401(k) plans and other added benefits.
But an increase in wages and benefits comes with an added cost…
"For farmers who have seen net farm income fall 50% since 2013, any lost income could be potentially devastating," reported NBC. And this could ultimately lead to higher prices for consumers at the checkout line.
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