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The Economist: If America is overrun by low-skilled migrants…

NEAR the massive packing warehouse at the headquarters of Limoneira, one of America’s largest lemon producers, sits a row of small white clapboard houses with neat front lawns and American flags flapping over their doorways. The homes are rented to farm workers at 55% below the market rate in Santa Paula, California, a fertile farming area not far from the seaside homes of Malibu. From their front doors, workers can stroll to a bocce court, a credit union and a park where family reunions and birthdays are celebrated. These perks, along with competitive pay, used to be enough to keep Limoneira’s fields of lemons and avocados full of workers. Not any more, says Alex Teague, the company’s senior vice-president. Though labour has long been tight, “I have never seen it this bad,” Mr Teague sighs from a chair in his office whose walls are covered in company memorabilia, including Limoneira’s first cheque from 1893.

Across America, farms are experiencing similar troubles. In May Tom Nassif, the president of Western Growers, a farming association representing family farmers in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico, travelled to Washington, DC, with 25 farm-owners. When Senator Dianne Feinstein of California asked how many were experiencing labour shortages, they all raised their hands. Although official data from the Department of Agriculture show a slight fall in the number of farm workers between 2000 and 2012, the New American Economy (NEA), a group which advocates immigration reform, reckons that on a more realistic count, from 2002 to 2014 the workforce actually shrank by 20%. Bob Young, the chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, a lobby group, thinks official numbers underestimate the extent of the shortfall since they ask how many workers a farmer has, not how many he wanted but could not find.

Read the full story from The Economist: If America is overrun by low-skilled migrants…

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