The agricultural sector in the United States has faced labor shortages for several years now. This was an issue before the outbreak of Covid-19. However, the global pandemic has undoubtedly worsened the situation. But what is the reason for this labor shortage? And what can be done to counteract it? Read on for more information.
Why is there a Labor Shortage?
Several potential explanations have been suggested for the lack of agricultural workers. Primary among these is that young people are no longer as interested in farming as a career. Presently, the average age of farmworkers in the United States is 60. Barriers like high land prices and expensive investments have made the profession less appealing to those aged between 25 and 35 in recent years.
Other potential explanations include the tightening of immigration and deportation legislation. A significant proportion of the agricultural workforce is made up of undocumented immigrants. The increased threat of deportation has made labor scarcer.
These issues have been compounded by a corresponding rise in wages. With fewer people willing to do the work, wages have crept up. As a result, farming has become more expensive.
Is there a Solution?
There are a few possible solutions to the labor shortage in the agricultural industry. One of the most promising areas of innovation in farming has agrotechnology. Nowadays, farmers can use advanced technology like sensors, robotics, automation, and crop health monitoring solutions. These can enhance productivity with limited manpower. These systems come with a high upfront cost. However, they can dramatically reduce the labor needed to supply the nation with enough food.
Sometimes, labor shortages relate to seasonal fluctuations in demand. If this is the case, it might be possible to rely on foreign labor to counteract the shortcomings in the US market. For example, the H-2A work visa program can fill temporary roles caused by seasonal fluctuations. An H-2A visa is only a viable option when US citizens are unqualified or unwilling to work in agricultural positions. However, when this is the case, immigrant workers can be beneficial.
Offer incentives to get young Americans into the field. These could include helping individuals finance farm equipment, subsidizing their living arrangements, or providing working allowances.