According to a study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS), a large reduction in the number of unauthorized workers, could lead to lower output and exports in agriculture and the broader economy.As you may know, there’s a hot topic immigration bill still lingering in the House of Representatives. And as it lingers… farmers across the nation wait in anticipation. Why? They are waiting and wondering if new policies will mean less workers and less workers begs the question… who will pick our produce?. According to a study from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (ERS), a large reduction in the number of unauthorized workers, could lead to lower output and exports in agriculture and the broader economy. Hired farm labor accounts for about 17% of production expenses overall and 40% of these expenses for fruit, vegetables and nursery products. Furthermore, a recently released White House report, “Fixing Our Broken Immigration System,” estimates agriculture production losses of between $1.73 billion to $3.12 billion in California alone. The report points out that there continues to be insufficient U.S. workers to fill labor needs, and that “by providing a path to earned citizenship for currently unauthorized farmworkers, the bipartisan Senate bill gives unauthorized workers and their families the security they need to invest in their own skills and education and pursue higher-paying employment.” But it seems immigration is not the only problem for farmers. Also decreasing is the number of Mexicans migrating to the US. Data from the Pew Hispanic Center notes that now, net migration flows from Mexico to the U.S. have declined to roughly zero and may be negative. The data goes on to explain that this change is the result of several factors such as a slowing of the U.S. economy, heightened border enforcement, and better economic conditions in Mexico. In other words, not only are there fewer workers here, but what would be their younger replacements are opting instead to stay and work in Mexico. So, what are the possible solutions? Perhaps a consideration to higher wages would appeal to a wider workforce? And what about technology? Could mechanization reduce farm labor demand? Either way with the immigration bill looking like it won’t be considered until at least October, farmers may need to look for alternative options.