Jan 032011

Mexican migrant workers have played an important role in US agriculture for decades, especially during harvest time, when they fill temporary menial and low-paid positions.

In recent years, border restrictions and periodic US crack-downs on the employment of undocumented workers have reduced the number of Mexicans seeking seasonal jobs north of the border. This has apparently resulted in some US agricultural enterprises deciding to shift their production centers into Mexico – if the workers won’t come to the farms, then the farms have to come to the workers…

Lettuce farm

Steve Scaroni's lettuce farm. Photo: Janet Jarman, The World.

One example, that of a major lettuce grower, is described in detail in the Public Radio International’s The World program American farmers move to Mexico, which includes an interesting audio clip of Steve Scaroni describing why he’s moved half his lettuce-growing business south to the state of Guanajuato.

Scaroni’s company plants, harvests and processes 20 million servings of lettuce each week, mostly distributed via US supermarkets.

Scaroni compares the pay of each field worker in Arizona or California of $9-$10 an hour, with the $12 to $15 he pays in Mexico per day. Wage differentials are not the only advantage. Geographical diversification into Mexico also spreads the risk (and increases his firm’s resilience) in the event of adverse weather conditions.

On the flip side, Scaroni has to cope with added transportation costs, the complexities of the Mexican tax system, and supply problems for vital inputs such as fertilizers.

Scaroni supports a proposed US immigration bill known as “AgJobs” which would give farm workers more rights, offer a path to legal status, and make it easier for American farmers to bring in temporary immigrant workers.

Mexico’s agriculture is analyzed in chapter 15 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. and concepts of sustainability are explored in chapters 19 and 30.  Buy your copy today, so you have this handy reference guide to all aspects of Mexico’s geography available whenever you need it.


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