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Does It Ever Dawn on Anyone?

The State of California has borrowed $10-Billion from the feds to pay for unemployment benefits, even with crops rotting in the fields for lack of workers.

Aug 06, 2013

We have several stories below about unemployment, worker shortages and immigration reform, and wonder if it ever dawns on anyone in Sacramento or Washington D.C. that we have 15% unemployment, 200,000 people in Fresno County alone on food stamps and yet have a worker shortage. Can anyone connect the dots here? The State of California has borrowed $10-Billion from the feds to pay for unemployment benefits, even with crops rotting in the fields for lack of workers. And what's the point of immigration reform if we don't require people to work when it's obvious there are jobs? There are 11 million illegals here now and yet there's a worker shortage. Besides going deeper in debt, what will change? Just asking.

State Begins Dealing With Massive Unemployment Debt -- California owes the federal government 410 billion it’s borrowed to cover a shortfall in the fund used to pay for unemployment benefits. Katie Orr
Capital Public Radio


Farm Worker Shortage Hits Calif. Ag Industry

By Ben Adler

For the second year in a row, California farmers are complaining of a worker shortage. That has the state’s $43.5 billion agriculture industry feeling the squeeze – and consumers, too.


(Sacramento, CA)

Last year, nearly two-thirds of farmers in a California Farm Bureau Federation survey said they didn’t have enough workers to pick their crops. This year, says the Farm Bureau’s Brian Little, it’s a problem again.

For farmers, that means “you’re not able to do things in a timely manner; you’re not able to do it as thoroughly or carefully as you might normally do; and it winds up affecting overall what you can do, the quality of the product that you can produce and ultimately the price that you might be able to get in the market,” Little told Capital Public Radio's Insight.

Little blames the shortage on demographic and political trends, including an older Mexican population, a lower Mexican birth rate and tighter U.S. border security.

The crops feeling the squeeze over the past two years include cherries, wine grapes, leafy greens, strawberries and peaches.


Unemployment benefits, water top Jerry Brown's post-vacation list

By Anthony York/Los Angeles Times


SACRAMENTO -- Now that Gov. Jerry Brown is back from his ancestral tour of Germany and Ireland, his attention is turning to priorities for the closing weeks of the legislative year, which ends Sept. 13.

Though many of the governor’s major policy initiatives – overhauling the state’s education funding system, eliminating enterprise zones and expanding Medi-Cal under the new federal healthcare law – were handled as part of budget negotiations last month, there are still some things on his to-do list.

Among them is overhauling the state’s unemployment insurance plan. As Marc Lifsher reported in Monday’s paper:

"With one of the nation's highest unemployment rates for several years, the state has had to borrow money from the feds to keep the program going. Now that the jobless rate has fallen to 8.5%, Brown would like to start paying down a $10-billion debt.

"His administration is circulating a draft bill that would put the system on an even keel by raising payroll taxes paid by employers. The goal is to win approval before the Legislature finishes work for the year Sept. 13."

Brown is in the Bay Area on Monday and is expected to return to Sacramento later this week.

White House: California could lose farms without immigration reform

Carolyn Lochhead/San Francisco Chronicle

The White House applied pressure on rural lawmakers Monday with a report that immigration reform is necessary to keep farms from moving operations abroad.

“Folks are making decisions to move their operations out of the United States,” because of a lack of workers, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a conference call. The biggest effect is in California with its $34 billion a year produce industry. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are harvested and packed by hand, mostly by immigrant workers who crossed the border illegally.

Vilsack said that without better access to migrant farm workers, the state could lose between $1.7 billion and $3.1 billion a year in lost farm income. The report said 74 percent of the state’s farm labor force is non-citizen, and probably most of those are undocumented.

Farmers across the country are reporting labor shortages. Philip Martin, a UC Davis expert on immigrant farm labor, told us a few weeks ago that it would take a wage of at least $15 an hour to attract U.S. workers, and before wages got that high, cheaper imports would replace domestic produce and farmers would mechanize wherever possible.

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