retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Washington Post has a story this morning suggesting that if President-elect Donald Trump is successful in cracking down on illegal immigration, it could result in deportations that could have "a particularly dramatic impact on agriculture."

Here's how the Post frames the story:

"Americans could see the cost of some fruits and vegetables soar. Undocumented workers account for 67 percent of people harvesting fruit, according to the Agriculture Department. They make up 61 percent of all employees on vegetable farms, and as many as half of all workers picking crops.

"Agricultural economists across the political spectrum say that there’s no way that workforce could be raptured up without reverberations throughout the food system — think farm bankruptcies, labor shortages and an eventual contraction of the broader economy. And even if you’re far from the agriculture industry, you could see $4 milk, low-quality oranges, and extortionately priced raspberries.

"The logic behind these dire predictions is pretty straightforward. If Trump were to begin deporting farmworkers or requiring that farms verify their work status, farmers would have three ways to fill in the labor gaps. They could hire legally authorized workers, who are vastly more expensive; switch away from crops that require human laborers to harvest them; or cut production, allowing fields to fallow and fruit to go unharvested."

Another potential irony: "To keep costs under control, Americans may end up being forced to buy more groceries from abroad, undermining Trump's effort to boost American industry."
KC's View:
I've talked to enough people in the produce business to know that there is going to be a lot of heavy-duty lobbying from that sector to slow down the kinds of immigration changes that Trump has advocated. There is a very real fear that these changes could result in much higher food prices, and won't do anything to make the US food industry great again.