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Can American farms survive without illegal immigrants?
It's not just that Americans don't want to pick vegetables, says The Atlantic's Megan McArdle. We no longer know how
 
A migrant farmer sorts tomatoes from a previous Georgian harvest: The state's tough new immigration law had a dire effect on this year's fruit and vegetable crop.
A migrant farmer sorts tomatoes from a previous Georgian harvest: The state's tough new immigration law had a dire effect on this year's fruit and vegetable crop.
Barry Williams/Getty Images

Georgia's tough new immigration laws may have worked too well, says Megan McArdle in The Atlantic: After no undocumented migrant workers showed up for the harvest, Georgia farmers left millions of dollars worth of fruits and vegetables rotting in the fields. Some economists have even pointed out that if the farmers had to hire legal pickers, they'd go bankrupt. But almost everyone is "wildly underestimating what's involved in becoming a skilled picker," McArdle says. If the U.S. actually seals off our southern border, "we will see a lot more ruined crops." Here's an excerpt:

Most fruits and vegetables require surprisingly skilled handling (which is why they still use pickers, instead of machines). Bad picking can easily destroy the profit margin on your crop, costing you more than you gain....

The illegal immigrants who harvest our crops have grown up doing this, learning the way my grandparents did. There are almost no Americans left who have either the painfully developed musculature or the painstakingly acquired knowledge to rapidly harvest a field without damaging the crop. And acquiring those skills is tricky, because the picking season for any one crop is very short... after which, it's time to start picking another crop that you don't know how to handle. And it's best done in a group of people who know what they're doing, not in a clueless mob that just got dumped in the fields for the first time. 

Read the entire article in The Atlantic.

 

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