The Last Harvest
The Last Harvest was made to explore one of the many facets of critical labor issues in the produce industry and spark discussion about possible solutions. Dig deeper with a curated list of facts and figures about these complex issues that surround the story told here through the eyes of growers and harvesters.
According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, specialty crops, which consist of vegetables, fruits and nuts, are valued at $41 billion. 75% of the fruit segment is completely dependent on hand-harvesting which includes labor aids, labor-saving machines, but excludes automated picking and robots. Top-selling fruit include berries,avacados, apples and grapes.
A Pew Research Center study indicates that there is a net loss of 140,000 from 2009 to 2014 – 1 million exiting the US with only 840,000 entering. The top reasons cited for leaving the U.S. include family re-unification, recession and stricter immigration laws in the U.S., and an improved GDP of more than 60% in Mexico.
The US Department of Labor estimates that about half of the nation’s farmworkers are unauthorized. Agriculture is the industry most reliant on undocumented workers and without improved guest worker programs and a path to legalization, the labor shortage is only going to get worse.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) indicates the agriculture sector employs more than 25% of the 3.2 B global work force. As countries develop, the share of the population working in agriculture declines. While more than 2/3 of the population in poor countries work in agriculture, less than 5% of the population does in rich countries.
Along with the $3.1 billion tied to the production of these crops, we lost $2.8 billion in added spending on services like transportation, manufacturing, and irrigation each year. We also lose the opportunity to provide 41,000 additional non-farm jobs in our economy annually.
According to a 2016 study by the US Department of Labor, 56% of farmworkers are over the age of 35, 21% of those being over the age of 50.