Trump presidency and potential impact on food prices

Dec 6, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump promised to crackdown on illegal immigration during his campaign. Caitlin Dewey reported in the Washington Post that such a move would result in increased fruit and vegetable prices for Americans.

The Post sought information from the UC Agricultural Issues Center (AIC), a statewide program that is part of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources. UC Cooperative Extension was credited as a source for a chart that accompanied the article that noted the crops most vulnerable to labor-cost change. Asparagus is listed as having the highest proportion of the farms' operating costs dedicated to labor: 82 percent. 

"The plants must be hand cut multiple times per day during their two-month harvest season," the story said. Other crops that have high labor costs are wine grapes, oranges, sweet cherries, and all types of fruit. The article said berries, peppers, onions, watermelons and apples are also typically picked by hand.

A Texas A&M agricultural economist, Luis Ribera, told the reporter he believes U.S. farmers may not be able to produce some fruit and vegetables as a result of Trump's planned deportation of undocumented immigrants.

"We had a farm labor shortage even without Trump. Whatever he does will just compound the problem," Ribera said.

The director of the AIC, agricultural economist Daniel Sumner, doesn't express dire concern about the potential impact of the Trump administration on food prices and agriculture policy.

"I do not see big changes in immigration policy relevant for ag. Except perhaps a guest worker program, which would be positive," Sumner said. "I do not see big deportation of farmworkers coming."

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist