Policy: Labor

Innovative farmers find solution for ‘labor shortage’: Pay wages high enough to attract laborers

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Photo -  Grass is literally going unmowed.
Grass is literally going unmowed.
Politics,Beltway Confidential,Timothy P. Carney,Labor,Agriculture

For years, I was suffering under a labor shortage: I couldn’t find anyone to mow my lawn. I made it very clear I was willing to pay $7.50 for someone to mow my lawn, but nobody showed up.

If I were the American Farm Bureau, I would start lobbying Washington for policies to boost the supply of labor, and I would call reporters to write about the lawn-labor shortage.

Grass is literally going unmowed.

I could complain that neighbors are being turned against one another in order to hire up lawnmowers, just as Kristi Boswell of the AFB put it: “We’ve got neighbors literally competing against each other just to have enough of a workforce to harvest their crops.”

But now, a group of innovative farmers have inspired me on how I can solve the lawn-labor shortage without needing federal policy. Check out this story, (linked in today’s Morning Examiner):

With the farm-labor pool already tight and crops ready to be picked, growers are scrambling to secure their supply of workers.

“It is getting very competitive out there and employers are having to offer incentives to find the labor they need,” said Oscar Ramos, a grape farmer and Kingsburg-based farm-labor contractor. “And one of those incentives is higher wages.”

Farmers and agriculture industry leaders say wages have risen $1 to a $1.50 an hour this year compared to last year, or as much as 12%. Among Valley farmers, hourly wages are hovering between $9 and $10 an hour, which is higher than California’s minimum wage of $8.

Wow! Who would have guessed that you could magically eliminate a shortage of something by paying more for that thing? It’s almost as if the industry lobbyists asking Congress to fix labor shortages – from the agribusiness industry to the tech industry – just want the government to actively drive down wages.

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