The immigrants who pick America’s produce are getting older, and employers are struggling to find young workers to replace them
The immigrant workers who pick America’s produce are getting older, according to an analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Environmental Research Service, reports Illinois Newsroom. From 2008 to 2019, the average age of U.S.-born farm workers remained about the same; however, the age of immigrant farm workers steadily rose by nearly seven years. As of 2019, the average age of an immigrant farm worker was nearly 42. Employers have long struggled to lure Americans to farm labor, and a tangled web of immigration policies and laws keep younger immigrant workers from replacing older workers as they age. The grueling nature of the work is another deterrent. Farm workers are among the poorest laborers in the country and routinely face hazardous conditions that include pesticide exposure, heat stress, lack of shade, and inadequate clean drinking water—not to mention the physical toll farm work takes on their bodies. The rising age of farm workers has led to panic about an even larger labor shortage in the agricultural industry. Meanwhile, these overwhelmingly undocumented workers do not have health care, retirement, or other benefits as they age.