So a real farm wage is $20 an hour
In a recent front-page story, the Hines family farmers made certain comments about their need for foreign-born workers. While they lamented the cost and annoying regulations of the federal H-2A temporary visa program for their farm workers, they also noted that without those foreign-born workers, they would not have enough hired help to run the farm.
They blamed their need for foreign-born workers on the unreliability of locals willing to work for the minimum wage offered by the Hines farm. They went on to state that they paid foreign workers “a set $11.27 an hour” but argued that the figure “is closer to $20 an hour when you factor in the free housing and transportation the farm is required to provide.”
And therein lies my confusion: Does it make sense that local workers are maligned for being unwilling to work for the $7.25 per hour minimum wage while the farmer, although complaining of the expense, is willing to pay foreign-born folks nearly $20 an hour? Has the farmer tried to attract local workers with a higher wage? Within the past few months, minimum-wage workers across the nation have been parading and protesting for a minimum wage of $15 an hour, and some localities have gone along with that. But the Hines family farm doesn’t mention having considered higher wages as a possibility for attracting local workers, opting instead to hire more-costly foreign-born workers. What is mentioned is that without a workable solution, the farmer cannot continue in business.
I understand that the farmer needs his crops tended, the locals need work for an acceptable wage, and the wage must be affordable for the farmer to pay. It appears that the farmer has determined the amount he can afford, but it is being offered to and earned by foreign-born workers. It doesn’t seem reasonable to me to blame local workers for not accepting something they are not being offered.
Admittedly the farmer faces difficult choices full of uncertainties and unknowns as our nation wrestles with solutions to our immigration issues.
What is clear to me, however, is that we do not need more farms selling out to real-estate developers. I’ve never been able to satisfy my appetite by gnawing on a roof shingle.
Jeffrey A. Thomas