"For several seasons now, fruit and vegetable farmers have had to scramble to find enough workers to harvest their crops. One factor in the labor shortage has been an increasingly militarized border, making it more difficult for would-be workers to cross over. Another has been the building boom, which has lured undocumented workers into higher-paying construction jobs.
Thus farmers in production centers like California and Arizona were already tense about the labor situation when Bush rolled out his hodgepodge of measures designed to force farmers (and other employers) to stop relying on undocumented workers. (For the record, as I've written before, I think it's schizophrenic and childish to make a big show of hunting down and deporting the people who feed you.)
Farmers across the country quickly cried foul. In New York's Hudson Valley, where workers come from Mexico and Central America, apple growers fear a bumper crop could largely wither on the branches. "We have 3 billion apples to pick this fall and every single one of them has to be picked by hand," one grower told The New York Times. "It's a very labor-intensive industry, and there is no local labor supply that we can draw from, as much as we try. No one locally really wants to pick apples for six weeks in the fall."
What happens when farmers can no longer work their land profitably? They generally sell it to developers, and land under cultivation succumbs to low-density sprawl. Again, that's already happening in California. In the state's lush Central Valley, home to probably the nation's most valuable territory for growing fruits and vegetables, developers bulldozed 100,000 acres of prime farmland in the 1990s alone, according to American Farmland Trust. If present trends continue, AFT warns, another million acres of farmland could vanish within a generation." (thanks Rania)
It's going to be olive picking season in Lebanon soon. We are very very proud of our olive oil (which is not that great, although some of it is excellent). It is very expensive (2 to 3 times the international price), but we happily pay the price. Olive farmers complain non-stop about their losses from olive farming, and that their largest cost is the harvesting labor. Until a few years ago, this was partly resolved by hiring Syrian farm workers. They know about olives, and were willing to work for short periods of time. But since the assassination of Hariri, Syrian workers are reluctant to come and work in Lebanon, as they have clearly been told (with guns and shrouds) that they are not welcome. The Lebanese categorically refuse to work as farmhands.