Age, Immigration and the Changing World of Agricultural Healthcare Costs

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Age, Immigration and the Changing World of Agricultural Healthcare Costs

December 13
15:43 2017

Image result for immigrant farm workers

When I was a teenager living in central Arizona, many of my classmates worked in the miles of fields during the summers, on weekends and even evenings. They harvested watermelons, cantaloupes and other summer crops. A few worked in the cotton fields, picking cotton for farmers that couldn’t afford the expensive machinery.

It was hard grueling work in the hot desert summer sun. The days were long and hot, but it was possible to earn a decent amount of money, especially for most teens. Don’t forget, this was before computers, cell phones, internet and all of the modern technology we take for granted these days.

What jobs were not taken by students, were taken by migrant farm workers, most of whom were illegal aliens. Farmers didn’t have to provide healthcare benefits for teenagers or migrant workers and that kept their costs down.

Then Cesar Chavez and others managed to unionize most farmworkers, forcing farmers to pay for healthcare benefits, but there were still millions of illegal aliens that worked from field to field without any healthcare benefits.

That was pretty much the status quo for several decades. In fact, the abundance of illegal alien farmworkers made it nearly impossible for American citizens, especially teens, to find a job working in the fields. Additionally, these days, fewer teens have the incentive or work ethic needed to go out and find jobs like farmworkers.

The status quo is changing over the past year and it’s resulting in higher costs of healthcare for farmworkers because those jobs are now being taken by older adults. Why?

Kaiser Health News explains:

“More than 90 percent of California’s crop workers were born in Mexico. But in recent years, fewer have migrated to the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Researchers point to a number of causes: tighter border controls; higher prices charged by smugglers; well-paying construction jobs and a growing middle-class in Mexico that doesn’t want to pick vegetables for Americans.”

“As a result, the average farmworker is now 45 years old, according to federal government data. Harvesting U.S. crops has been left to an aging population of farmworkers whose health has suffered from decades of hard labor. Older workers have a greater chance of getting injured and of developing chronic illnesses, which can raise the cost of workers’ compensation and health insurance.”

“‘The slowdown is happening,’ said Brent McKinsey, a third-generation farmer and one of the owners of Mission Ranches in Salinas. ‘You start to see your production drop, but it’s difficult to manage because there aren’t the younger people wanting to come in and work in this industry’.”

As the Obama administration continues to crack down on illegal immigration, farmers are finding fewer illegals to work cheap. This leaves more jobs open for Americans, if they are willing to work. Some desperate older people are finding it necessary to take some of these jobs out in the fields. They have the work ethic, but maybe not the physical stamina necessary.

Consequently, healthcare costs for farmworkers are going up and this comes out of the pockets of the farmers, who in turn pass on the additional costs to consumers.

While I totally agree with cracking down on illegal immigration, the cost of American sovereignty does have a price that we are all going to pay.

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