Life imitates the movie in California's agriculture industry:
With the lettuce harvest beginning, farmers in the $1 billion winter vegetable industry are panicking about getting their crops out of the ground. Vegetable growers estimate they could be 32,000 workers short of the 54,000 they need for the winter harvest, which runs until March. Last year, local farmers left hundreds of acres of lettuce in the fields because they lacked the manpower to harvest it.
Worker shortages have swept the Western agriculture industry, bringing $300 million in losses to raisin growers in California's San Joaquin Valley in September and causing consternation about this winter's harvest from the Christmas tree farms of Oregon to the melon fields of Arizona.
"Today I have approximately 290 people working in the field," Jon Vessey said recently. Vessey runs an 8,000-acre winter vegetable farm with his son, Jack, near El Centro, Calif. "I should have 400, and for the harvest I need 1,100. . . . There's a disaster coming."
The Western Growers Association, which represents 3,000 farmers, is lobbying the Bush administration to make it easier for farmers to tap the labor pool just below the border.
Needless to say, consumers will be the ones paying for the recent crackdown on illegal immigration with higher prices at the grocery stores.