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Robotics Technology

Robots Step Into the Backbreaking Agricultural Work That Immigrants Won't Do 285

HughPickens.com writes: Ilan Brat reports at the WSJ that technological advances are making it possible for robots to handle the backbreaking job of gently plucking ripe strawberries from below deep-green leaves, just as the shrinking supply of available fruit pickers has made the technology more financially attractive. "It's no longer a problem of how much does a strawberry harvester cost," says Juan Bravo, inventor of Agrobot, the picking machine. "Now it's about how much does it cost to leave a field unpicked, and that's a lot more expensive." The Agrobot costs about $100,000 and Bravo has a second, larger prototype in development. Other devices similarly are starting to assume delicate tasks in different parts of the fresh-produce industry, from planting vegetable seedlings to harvesting lettuce to transplanting roses. While farmers of corn and other commodity crops replaced most of their workers decades ago with giant combines, growers of produce and plants have largely stuck with human pickers—partly to avoid maladroit machines marring the blemish-free appearance of items that consumers see on store shelves. With workers in short supply, "the only way to get more out of the sunshine we have is to elevate the technology," says Soren Bjorn.

American farmers have in recent years resorted to bringing hundreds of thousands of workers in from Mexico on costly, temporary visas for such work. But the decades-old system needs to be replaced because "we don't have the unlimited labor supply we once did," says Rick Antle. "Americans themselves don't seem willing to take the harder farming jobs," says Charles Trauger, who has a farm in Nebraska. "Nobody's taking them. People want to live in the city instead of the farm. Hispanics who usually do that work are going to higher paying jobs in packing plants and other industrial areas." The labor shortage spurred Tanimura & Antle Fresh Foods, one of the country's largest vegetable farmers, to buy a Spanish startup called Plant Tape, whose system transplants vegetable seedlings from greenhouse to field using strips of biodegradable material fed through a tractor-pulled planting device. "This is the least desirable job in the entire company," says Becky Drumright. With machines, "there are no complaints whatsoever. The robots don't have workers' compensation, they don't take breaks."
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Robots Step Into the Backbreaking Agricultural Work That Immigrants Won't Do

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  • by Iamthecheese ( 1264298 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @08:12AM (#49559005)
    While structural unemployment is a progressive circumstance that will hurt a lot of people very badly if it isn't handled properly I do hope these robots are good enough and cheap enough to replace human labor. Technological unemployment is a first world problem if anything is. That said, when someone says an American won't do the job what they mean is, "I'm not willing to pay a living wage for this job"

    If we don't define the terms properly we'll end up with solutions that don't fit the problems.
    • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @08:17AM (#49559037)
      The choice isn't pay a high wage or pay a low wage.

      The choice is grow strawberries that you can sell at a price people will pay, or don't grow strawberries.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        The choice isn't pay a high wage or pay a low wage.

        The choice is grow strawberries that you can sell at a price people will pay, or don't grow strawberries.

        But when you consider that the people who used to pick fruit are now working in factories sticking consumer goods in boxes, you have to consider our society's priorities pretty messed up. Aside from water and air, there is nothing as important to human life as food. Why does worker reward not reflect this?

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by itzly ( 3699663 )

          there is nothing as important to human life as food. Why does worker reward not reflect this?

          Current worker reward produces more than enough food, so it is reflecting what it should.

        • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @09:02AM (#49559257)

          Aside from water and air, there is nothing as important to human life as food. Why does worker reward not reflect this?

          The price of a commodity has little to do with "importance", but with scarcity and cost of production. Air is the most important commodity, yet it is free. Water is the second most important, yet it is extremely cheap (as a residential consumer in California I get about 5 gallons for a penny).

          you have to consider our society's priorities pretty messed up.

          Do you believe that air is free because of messed up social priorities?

          • That's a great comment. I'm going to borrow it sometime.

            I sometimes get puzzled by people who talk about jobs like this.

            If anyone should be paid millions, it is doctors who save your life or teachers who raise your kids.

            Counter:
            Healthcare/Education is so important that doctors/teachers should have their salaries controlled to keep the cost of healthcare/education affordable.

            • I sometimes get puzzled by people who talk about jobs like this.

              If anyone should be paid millions, it is doctors who save your life or teachers who raise your kids.

              Well I agree with that. Doctors are well-paid, and deservedly so. Teachers are typically underpaid.

              Counter: Healthcare/Education is so important that doctors/teachers should have their salaries controlled to keep the cost of healthcare/education affordable.

              That only holds if you believe that healthcare and education are better dealt with as private enterprise than as part of the public sector. I don't.

          • by Half-pint HAL ( 718102 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @12:08PM (#49561019)

            Aside from water and air, there is nothing as important to human life as food. Why does worker reward not reflect this?

            The price of a commodity has little to do with "importance", but with scarcity and cost of production.

            But here we're talking about food for which there is demand and a market, and it's going unpicked due to difficulties in attracting workers. The demand for food has not decreased in recent years, so someone, somewhere, needs that food. And yet it's not "cost-effective" to pick it.

            The missing part of this equation is how that "hole" in the supply is fulfilled. And the answer is... cheap imports. Not a problem, you say? It is for the world's poor, because while the global food market means low prices in first world countries, it means high prices in developing countries and leaves people unable to afford to feed their families.

            This is where our priorities are messed up. We shrug our shoulders, say "market forces" and let other people shoulder the burden. Just look at the problems that US corn ethanol caused for Mexicans. To people in the States, Mexican maize is cheap, so the ethanol manufacturers snatched it up, leaving the Mexican supply far below demand, pushing prices up and causing widespread hunger.

            Don't trust the invisible hand -- everything the hand gives you, it has taken from someone else.

        • by njnnja ( 2833511 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @09:37AM (#49559479)

          What is puzzling you is called the paradox of value [wikipedia.org]. It can be described as the apparent paradox that water is necessary to life, while diamonds are not, but diamonds are much more expensive than water. The answer is that decisions to buy and sell are made at the margin, so the question isn't "How valuable is water to you?" but rather, "How valuable is the next gallon of water to you?" Since, in "our society", we have enough water to support life and agriculture, the marginal gallon of water is used, say, to water golf courses and wash cars. These low-value marginal uses means that the price of water is low, as is actually seen.

          Similarly, with the average American's BMI pushing 30, the marginal value of the next strawberry isn't very big to the vast majority of Americans. So the price of strawberries is low, and there is little room to pay strawberry pickers a good wage. Also see Worth: Just because you're necessary doesn't mean you're important. [despair.com]

      • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @08:39AM (#49559121) Homepage

        Or more to the point, to compete with strawberries grown in other countries under whatever conditions they deem acceptable.

        I've long supported the concept of a VAT-equivalent for pollution (PAT = Pollution Added Tax), where goods are taxed at fixed rates for different pollutants embodied by each manufacturing step, goods leaving the PAT zone are rebated, and goods entering the PAT zone are taxed based on an estimate of their embodied pollution, similar to how VAT works with value changes / rebates / taxes. VAT serves as a way to tax goods without unfairly harming the competitiveness of your products and favoring imported goods, and PAT could extend that logic to pollution controls. But maybe PAT isn't enough. Maybe we also need a HRAT, a "Human Rights Added Tax", which imposes extra fees based on things like human rights abuses, poverty wages, etc embodied in the production of a product, to provide a level playing field for countries with higher standards.

        One would have to handle things relatively, of course - a poverty wage in southern California is not the same as a poverty wage in Nigeria, for example, and you don't want to make international sales prohibitive for poor countries simply because their per-capita GDP isn't sufficient. But I'd find it fair to add extra costs at the dock for products produced by factories with inhumane working and living conditions, etc, which keep workers trapped in such conditions by all sorts of means (threats of deportation, threats of violence, unpayable "company store"-type debts, etc). So a strawberry farm in Nigeria paying its workers $2,50 an hour wouldn't be seen as abusive (like one in California would) since that's over double the average national wage and easily meets local cost of living expenses - but a Nigerian farm that left its workers exposed to toxic doses of pesticides and threatened to seize everything their workers own if they try to quit would be seen as abusive even if the nominal salary was $2,50 an hour.

        • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday April 27, 2015 @10:21AM (#49559917) Homepage Journal

          Or more to the point, to compete with strawberries grown in other countries under whatever conditions they deem acceptable.

          You can't get strawberries from much further away than Mexico, and even those are inferior to fruit from within the country. Strawberries don't ship well. Most Mexican strawberries never ripen, some of 'em get kinda close but if you know what the real thing is like (I grew up in Santa Cruz) then you know they're crap.

          You can get frozen strawberries from further away, but that's expensive too.

        • This is an idea that I'm surprised hasn't gained more traction. Using import tarrifs as a means of protectionism is quite rightly considered bad form internationally. However, using import tarrifs to create a level playing field seems perfectly fair. After all, if companies in your country are mandated by law to pay a minimum wage, paid holidays and parental leave, and are forced to respect workers rights and health and safety, the countries without minimum wages or paid leave and where nobody bats an eyeli

      • People say the average worker isn't making as much as they used to, but I think that people are just buying a lot more stuff than they used to. Strawberries are a great example. They used to be something you would buy once in a while. We buy them pretty much every week when they are in season, and I don't think of myself as that well off. Cellular phones, cable TV, Internet, and computers. None of this stuff existed 50 years ago. Our budgets may be stretched, but a lot of it is because of the things we h
        • by cmdr_tofu ( 826352 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @08:50AM (#49559193) Homepage

          You are right, but I think to a point.

          50 years ago you didn't need a cellphone or a personal computer. Life would be very difficult without a PC today and likewise for a cellphone. If you are old like me you will remember the ubiquitous payphone, and you will also remember paper-and-phone-driven processes that no longer exist because things are handled more efficiently using computers-and-Internet.

          But it's true that very few *need* Cable TV, Netflix, or the latest smartphone.

          • I think the hard part is for people to make the switch themselves within the context of society. A lot of the homework my kids have to do requires the use of a computer. A single computer for the entire house isn't enough anymore. Now we need a computer for each kid. Same goes for a cell phone. If you don't have a cell phone, you'll be left out of a lot of things simply because people couldn't reach you. Then again, you could probably get by with a $50-$100 phone on a pay per minute plan, and spend a lo

          • by swb ( 14022 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @09:41AM (#49559527)

            It's easy to talk about material goods as being "unnecessary" especially if they do not contribute to one's physical safety or health, like shelter, food and water.

            For better or for worse, though, we are a consumer society and some things almost start to seem to become needs not because they contribute to our physical safety or health but because they contribute to our ability to integrate socially.

            You may not "need" the latest smartphone but at the same time, especially among younger people, you could almost say you need to have a smartphone capable of accessing social networks in a reasonable manner because it's extremely difficult to integrate with many peer groups without one. You will not be able to participate in group dynamics or posses the same social information as other people.

            The same thing could be said (more tentatively, because there are other outlets) about Netflix. If you're not able to engage with people socially because you are unaware of the types of programs they consume and cannot participate in discussions about them you are also hindered in group dynamics.

            Outside the electronics/media sphere, you can make similar judgements about clothes. You don't "need" clothes that fit a specific fashion or brand paradigm -- you can buy used clothes or dollar store clothes and meet the minimal functional needs for clothing. But style and manner of dress is very important for engaging in peer groups, and like it or not people are in/excluded or find it easier or harder to engage in social activities if their mode of dress is compatible with their peer groups.

            Now it's easy to make a lot of value judgements -- especially about social networking (the companies, phenomenon, etc) -- but their existence, usage and impact on social life is a reality and at some point I think some of these things become needs for reasonable social integration. Excluding them because they don't meet some minimalist description of "need" starts to sound myopic and mean spirited because I don't know anyone who just lives based on minimal need.

            • by Kjella ( 173770 )

              You may not "need" the latest smartphone but at the same time, especially among younger people, you could almost say you need to have a smartphone capable of accessing social networks

              See, here you're confusing two very different things. A shitty low end Android will let you access Facebook. The iPhone 6 will let you hang with the rich kids. Rich kids have expensive habits. Rich kids often have expensive habits to show off that they're rich. Our little fishing boat doesn't fit very well in a yacht club, am I now poor because I can't "fit in" with the millionaires? Sorry, but wanting to pose in an economic league you're not doesn't strike me as any genuine poverty. At least not severe eno

        • by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) * on Monday April 27, 2015 @09:45AM (#49559575)

          People say the average worker isn't making as much as they used to, but I think that people are just buying a lot more stuff than they used to.

          That's a statement of median salary vs. GDP, which is only tangentially related to spending (i.e., only in the sense that consumer spending affects GDP). And wages and salaries really have been falling relative to GDP [wikimedia.org] over the past 50 years.

          Cellular phones, cable TV, Internet, and computers. None of this stuff existed 50 years ago. Our budgets may be stretched, but a lot of it is because of the things we have decided are necessary.

          On the flip side, there are a lot of things that are cheaper today than they were 50 years ago, such as clothing and food (according to this article [theatlantic.com], those two expenses went from about 42% of the average household budget in 1950 to about 17% in 2003).

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 27, 2015 @08:49AM (#49559185)

        I am from a farming family (in the UK). And here are some important things to learn:

        1) Huge landowning farmers are rich. On top of being rich, they get a lot of subsidies. They get the subsidies because, being rich, they can bribe politicians. This makes them richer, and more able to bribe. The EU is something I support entirely in principle, because trade is better than war, but in few areas has become more corrupt than subsidising landowners;

        2) Smaller farmers struggle. You know why they struggle? Because there are about half a dozen highly profitable supermarkets which have nearly all the negotiating power in deciding the prices of goods they buy. The larger farmers are fine with this, producing the least tasty foods in the worst possible conditions (in the case of animals), because they can make profit on volume, and supermarkets can hit the consumer with a huge markup, behave wastefully (it is ridiculous. how much emphasis is put on appearance of fruit and vegetables, for example, and consumers have been engineered into believing this will have an effect on the taste/quality), and still make a massive profit;

        3) The larger concerns would have no problem paying their workers more, but then they would make less profit;

        4) The smaller concerns tend to be more enthusiastic about the taste and (for animals) the welfare of their product, but they cannot pay their workers more because of 2).

        Unfortunately, smaller farmers are really bad at working cooperatively - the NFU is one of the most conservative unions, and dominated by 1). They could have taken up the opportunity to set up home food delivery networks, but this completely passed them by. So this business has now become associated with overpriced "organic" flim-flammers like Riverford and Abel&Cole, the mainstay of GROLIES and other dullards who have more money than sense, rather than mainstream consumers of food (i.e. almost everyone).

      • by antiperimetaparalogo ( 4091871 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @09:01AM (#49559249)

        The choice isn't pay a high wage or pay a low wage.

        The choice is grow strawberries that you can sell at a price people will pay, or don't grow strawberries.

        In Greece we grow strawberries, with most of the production exported to northern Europe. Northern Europe eats strawberries because to grow strawberries at a price people will pay you need low wages (or robots!) - despite Greece's huge (25%) unemployment, no Greek is working in the fields as a strawberries picker (that's the hard labour), so we must employ (paying -illegaly- low wages) all those illegal immigrants (they are illegal, and it's important to note that because it's important for the point i try to make - AND because they are illegal...) invading Greece/Europe seeking higher wages than those they earn in their places of origin (but are satisfied with lower wages than those legal in Greece/Europe - so, by both being illegal immigrants and illegal worker, they steal the ability of legal workers, some of them legal immigrants by the way, to buy strawberries).

        I don't try to blame only the illegal immigrants (our Greek producers that illegaly employ them are also to blame), just to claim that this problem is much more complicated than just "sell at a price people will pay, or don't grow strawberries", and the choises you present must include other factors - some of them quite embarrassing for the usual left-wing person that wants both "open borders" and "wage equality" (those problematic situations -together with the cultural problems Muslim, legal or illegal, immigrants create- contributes to the nationalist rise in Europe).

        • by dave420 ( 699308 )
          The rise in nationalism is more to do with sloppy, lazy logic like yours than any inherent qualities of specific immigrants. It's easier to point the finger of blame at conspicuous immigrants than it is to admit you might be part of the problem. I don't want to Godwin, so I won't draw any comparisons, regardless of how chillingly accurate they are.
      • Its both, and it is crucial to understand that. It is also "pay workers a living wage" or "run out of consumers to buy your products".
      • Not really, if the labor shortage lasted a while then strawberry prices would rise (and demand fall) until the labor was affordable at whatever rate was necessary to attract workers. That's the beauty of the free market, it adjusts automatically. Now, that might mean no one but rich people can afford strawberries, which is a whole different sort of problem and one not solved by the free market.
      • If you business model requires that you pay slave wages to your employees you need a new business model.

        I also love when they say "Americans don't want to do this work", because they always leave off the "for the slave wages I'm willing to pay them".

        And as we've seen over and over and over again, increasing the salary you pay to your workers has a negligible effect on the price of your goods that consumers pay.

        When I was in high school I used to work on a farm over the summer, picking berries and other frui

    • No doubt they don't pay much, but even migrant labor needs some jobs to migrate to. Seasonal employment just doesn't work when there isn't work within a thousand miles during some seasons. Arranging long distance transportation and lodging for families every couple of months is a serious challenge, particularly when migrant labor is used as cover for smuggling of people and contraband.
    • That said, when someone says an American won't do the job what they mean is, "I'm not willing to pay a living wage for this job"

      It's not a matter of not being willing to pay higher wages. The economics of the industry are such that it is impossible to pay substantially higher wages. Profit margins in farming are low in the best of times and labor cost is a very substantial percent of the cost of most agriculture products. Higher wages in crop picking does not result in meaningfully higher productivity. A person has a physical limit on how much work they can accomplish in a given amount of time. Higher wages will not result in

    • It's not just a matter of "paying a living wage", it has to be a wage high enough to lure people out of the city to do the job, into the unknown countryside.

      That, and city kids will take time to adjust to the physically demanding work, so they won't be as productive at first, either, and trying to force things will result in even more injuries than normal (farm work is already some of the most dangerous out there).

      So the farmers would end up stuck paying more for less, the workers would be stressed and unha

      • it has to be a wage high enough to lure people out of the city to do the job

        Yep

        So the farmers would end up stuck paying more for less, the workers would be stressed and unhappy, and everybody loses.

        The migrant laborers who do this work year after year actually know what they are doing, and their labor is woefully undervalued.

        No, everyone doesn't lose. Anyone lured out of the city by high pay who decides to stick it out for the high pay ( or the country lifestyle together with enough pay to make up the d

        • There are always exceptions, people who find their calling in life in places that you wouldn't expect.

          I expect that in this case it's going to go to the machines, though.

    • Strawberries are typically grown as annuals. I live in Florida and we have many acres of abandoned orange groves still producing oranges with zero input from anyone. It is simply too expensive to pick them and bring them to market. Nobody will pay that much for an orange. It's interesting because every once in a while when OJ prices spike due to a bad harvest somewhere you will see people show up at these groves and clean them out. But typically they just fall off the tree and rot.

    • Yea, I find it a little funny (in a sad, depressing, sort of way). We have a short memory as a country/culture. Most people today don't realize that these are the exact same arguments slave owners used to use to justify the continuance of slavery (and, almost certainly, then used to justify the sharecropping system after slavery was ended). Instead of "I can't find American's to do the job", they used to argue "I won't be able to find a white person to do the job". It's all complete bullshit.

      The simple

  • In other words... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 27, 2015 @08:13AM (#49559009)

    we don't have the unlimited labor supply we once did = we don't have an unlimited amount of "slave labor"

    And I say the above as an opinion. I base that on the unwillingness of the businesses wanting to pay higher wages which would solve this issue. Or am I incorrect about this?

    • by dywolf ( 2673597 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @08:31AM (#49559101)

      same old same old.

      they've been able to keep wages, and the minimum wage, depressed so long that the labor force is shrinking not through a lack of potential workers, but through a lack of willingness for people to work for unlivable wages. if wages kept pace with productivity, as they had for the longest time, the median wage would about 140k/yr, and the minimum wage would be ~20/hr.

      this has the effect of preserving the elite's status without requiring them to provide for a strong middle class to buy their products.
      instead they preserve their relative status by keeping everyone else's financial status depressed.

      you'd almost think it's intentional.

      • Re:In other words... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by circletimessquare ( 444983 ) <circletimessquare@@@gmail...com> on Monday April 27, 2015 @08:54AM (#49559223) Homepage Journal

        i always thought it would make a great conspiracy dystopian story where the superrich, with everything automated, don't need us anymore

        so they simply kill us all off

        the earth reduced to 700,000 souls from 7,000,000,000 in a matter of days (some sort of highly infectious agent?)

        • i always thought it would make a great conspiracy dystopian story where the superrich, with everything automated, don't need us anymore so they simply kill us all off the earth reduced to 700,000 souls from 7,000,000,000 in a matter of days (some sort of highly infectious agent?)

          Sounds like the plot of Helix [syfy.com].

      • by Dr_Barnowl ( 709838 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @08:55AM (#49559231)

        It's short-sighted and stupid.

        The end result will be torches and pitchforks. And even (some of) the rich know this. [politico.com]

    • And I say the above as an opinion. I base that on the unwillingness of the businesses wanting to pay higher wages which would solve this issue. Or am I incorrect about this?

      You are incorrect. If the business paid higher wages, they would have to raise the price of strawberries to cover the cost. Then consumers wouldn't buy the strawberries, and would buy something less labor intensive instead, like watermelons. Then the business would fire the strawberry pickers, and switch to growing watermelons.

      • by ksheff ( 2406 )
        Unfortunately, most farmers or anyone else that produces a commodity do not have that much control over what they can sell the product for. Sure if the farmer sells directly to people at markets or any other venue, they can raise the price as they see fit. However, most do not have that option. Given that strawberries are perishable items that can't be stored for long, they don't have as much flexibility as grain farmers who can store the crop and wait for prices to go up. Instead, if growing strawberri
      • The core problem is that technology is reducing the market value of unskilled/low-skilled human labor below the level that someone can survive on. This is an inevitable consequence of automation, and it's one we're not really prepared mentally to handle, because it goes against all of our core assumptions. After all, human labor has been the core element of production since the dawn of history. We're primed to think that if you're willing to work hard, you should not just survive but get ahead, and that's n
    • I base that on the unwillingness of the businesses wanting to pay higher wages which would solve this issue. Or am I incorrect about this?

      Like almost everyone else, you're blindly blaming the business and ignoring the other half of the equation - the consumer. How much will Joe or Jane Sixpack pay for a pint of strawberries? That ultimately determines how much the business can pay the picker.

      You can't have low prices, high quality, and high wages for the worker - pick two.

      • by itzly ( 3699663 )

        You can't have low prices, high quality, and high wages for the worker - pick two.

        You'd be lucky to pick two. Sometimes you can't even pick one. On several occasions, I've seen very expensive, poor quality, strawberries in the supermarket.

      • by drsmithy ( 35869 )

        You can't have low prices, high quality, and high wages for the worker - pick two.

        You can, but it means smaller profit margins and strong worker's rights.

        Exhibit A: the couple of decades post-WW2 in the USA. Capitalism's golden age, the greatest relative uplift in quality of life in human history.

        Or is your argument really that there fundamentally aren't enough physical resources for everyone to get high quality goods ?

        • If only your "Exhibit A" wasn't mostly selective golden memory tinted by rose colored glasses. The "great uplift" was indeed (mostly) great - if you were a white collar worker in the city, or an industrial worker with a union. For the laborers down on the farm, the topic of discussion, not so much.

          And even then the "great uplift" wasn't powered by smaller profit margins or worker's rights - it was powered by rising salaries, employment, and consumer spending. (Emphasis on the last.) It couldn't last,

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        Actually, you can somewhat increase wages to the workers if the people at the top making enough to retire on every single year accept less. It's not as if they're irreplaceable.

        Of course, if workers in general make higher wages, their willingness and ability to pay more for strawberries increases as well.

        Funny thing, strawberries haven't suddenly gotten harder to grow than they used to be.They don't require any more labor than they ever did. Wages in general haven't kept up with productivity.

        The one increas

    • we don't have the unlimited labor supply we once did = we don't have an unlimited amount of "slave labor"

      Immigrant labor is even "better" than literal slave labor because it is cheaper. You don't have to care for your employees. If they get sick or die or whatever, that's not your problem because you don't own them. And if you don't want to pay them, you just inform the INS that you have "discovered" that you have a high number of illegal employees, and would they please come pick them up, perhaps right before or even on payday?

  • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @08:13AM (#49559011)
    Man, I never even imagined seeing a time when we ran short of Mexicans.
    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @08:18AM (#49559039) Homepage

      So the US has hit Peak Mexican? Is it possible to recover more of the remaining Mexican population by fracking their cities with high pressure steam?

      • Re:Take me now, Lord (Score:5, Informative)

        by bluegutang ( 2814641 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @08:43AM (#49559153)

        Mexico is not so poor anymore. Its per capita income is similar to some European countries (like Bulgaria), and higher than that in the border regions with the US. Combined with the stagnant US economy, this means fewer Mexicans want to work in the US than in the past.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L... [wikipedia.org]

        • While Mexico has become wealthier, the gap is still huge:

          USA: $30,932 or possibly $38,000
          Mexico: $4,508

          Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M... [wikipedia.org]

          • While Mexico has become wealthier, the gap is still huge:

            The cost of living in Mexico, however, is similarly less. Property and property taxes, for example, really are that much lower. Food isn't, though. Cars aren't.

            • by ksheff ( 2406 )
              and clothes, electronics, etc, etc. Fuel is much more expensive (ex: gasoline was about $3.80/gallon in Jan) except at cities on the border which are closer to US prices. On top of that, there is a 16.5% tax included in the price of most consumer goods. Because of that, lots of people used to travel to the US to buy clothes, school supplies, and other items for "back to school" time or Christmas. Given the rise in the USD:MXN exchange rate, that's not as attractive any more especially when factoring the
            • The numbers I cited are purchasing power parity, not raw income. The differences in costs are at least largely factored in already.

        • Maybe I'm confused but it looks like that diagram shows salaries in the United States are five times higher.

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @08:51AM (#49559195)

        So the US has hit Peak Mexican?

        We hit peak Mexican in 2008. Since then, the net flow has been negative (more people returning to Mexico than arriving). The Latino population is still growing because of a higher birthrate, but at that point they aren't "Mexicans", but native-born American citizens.

        • by ksheff ( 2406 )
          The population is also growing from people coming from other parts of Latin America.
    • by ksheff ( 2406 )
      More people are moving to Mexico from the US than the other way around since it is easier for them to find jobs at home than it is here. It has been that way for the last few years since the recession.
  • Oh noes, but that's not creating jobs, that's losing them, which is automatically bad right?

    People will grow out of the 9-5 slave-aholic mindset sooner or later I guess.
    • Oh noes, but that's not creating jobs, that's losing them, which is automatically bad right?
      People will grow out of the 9-5 slave-aholic mindset sooner or later I guess.

      Later, much later, after the government stops criminalizing being poor. You need money to exist in a capitalist society, especially one in which being homeless is a crime.

    • by sjames ( 1099 )

      I would be happy to see machines put all of us out of work, but not before we make the necessary changes to our economy and society to allow us to live decently without a job.

    • People will grow out of the 9-5 slave-aholic mindset sooner or later I guess.

      Well, most of us have moved on to the 8-5 shift with sporadic overtime some while back. Additionally, I'll be happy to give it up as soon as there is an alternative that doesn't involve being starving and homeless.

  • by jfdavis668 ( 1414919 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @08:40AM (#49559131)
    Once you put food production into the hands of robots, we are soon going to be in trouble.
  • Read it and weep [washingtonexaminer.com]

    1. Unlimited under or unemployed illegal aliens that can't find work.
    2. Said illegal aliens need welfare.
    3. Middle class being drained via taxation to pay for said welfare.
    4 Talk of Illegal aliens being granted amnesty so they can vote in 2016. They will vote for "benefits".

    Welcome to the new American feudal system. Only a matter of time before titles come back in vogue. Who will be your Lord?

    • I'm weeping all right -- at how stupid that article is.

    • by Hardhead_7 ( 987030 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @09:29AM (#49559425)
      You're an idiot. The middle class isn't being drained via taxation. Taxes are lower right now than at any point in the last century. It's the stagnation of wages that's causing the middle class to have problems. It's amazing how people will assert something as true that can be debunked with five seconds of Google searching.
      • You're an idiot. The middle class isn't being drained via taxation. Taxes are lower right now than at any point in the last century. It's the stagnation of wages that's causing the middle class to have problems.

        It really doesn't matter what the absolute number of dollars people are paying in taxes might be if the taxation breaks the camel's back. Who do you think is paying for Obamacare?

    • by dave420 ( 699308 )
      The greater danger to America is pathetic nonsense like yours. Your sig is fantastically hilarious in this context. I'm sure you think you're doing the right thing, but you just haven't put the leg-work in to figure out your current path is pure nonsense - lazy, lazy thinking.
    • America's problem is not immigration, but the myth of trickle-down economics, which has been implemented blindly in the West. Read:

      http://www.newscientist.com/ar... [newscientist.com]

      This is not about 'bleeding-heart socialism', but about why it is a good idea to maintain a balanced society, where the gap between the richest and the poorest is not too big. People only leave their home country with the culture and climate they grew up to love, when the situation becomes bad enough to make the alternatives look significantly be

      • No, trickle-down works, and is working exceedingly well. So well in fact it makes its way over to outsourced labor. What we're experiencing as a nation is a "trickle-out"; we're hemorrhaging wealth.

        • Look, it isn't just me saying this - it has been measured over the last 4 decades. Follow the link I provided and read about it - this guy isn't a wild-eyed prophet, but a down to earth guy who has done the foot-work. He's not asking anybody to accept it on faith, there is good data to back it up. We can all read it and make up own minds.

  • A timeless scam (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 27, 2015 @09:03AM (#49559263)

    Years ago I picked blueberries and apples in Maine, cherries in NY and pecans in Arizona. It's always the same story. The farmers want low-paid slaves. They go to great lengths to discourage local workers so that they can get foreigners who can be exploited.

    An apple farmer I dealt with would shout, threaten and demand that people could easily carry a 24' wood ladder vertically, with no practice. When he'd scared away the locals he'd go to the state labor board and say, "See? Americans won't do this work. I need a planeload of Jamaicans." The Jamaicans could all be housed in one big building and were not allowed off the property unescorted, by law. They were essentially incarcerated servants.

        Though the picking in New England was still better paid than the picking in Arizona and S. California because the supply of desperate, illegal Mexicans was virtually unlimited in the Southwest.

    The H1-B visa situation in the tech industry must surely be similar. For tech employers to say they can't find Americans for the jobs is a ludicrous lie. In any other industry if an employer said "Americans won't or can't do it" the natural answer would be that the employer is simply not willing to pay a fair wage.

    The issue here is not labor. It's factory farming done by giant corporations whose R&D focuses mainly on how to cut corners in order to increase profit.

  • by thisisauniqueid ( 825395 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @09:57AM (#49559699)
    I assume the original poster doesn't want to do the backbreaking work either -- but that's a moot point, they're too rich and white for that anyway.
  • It is interesting that finally someone built a machine that can harvest a Strawberry. The rest of the article is an example of bovine scat. I've been there. HughPickens.com, I challenge your work. Prove it.
  • Typical capitalist horse shit.

    Its the generic excuse when they introduce machines that put people out of work, or introduce lower paid non-union labor, or do something else that drags wages down. I for one, am sick of this pseudo-'leftist' language being used to justify driving down the price of labor, and putting people out of work.

  • ... the Agriculture Ministry IS in charge of Gundam after all.

  • by Rambo Tribble ( 1273454 ) on Monday April 27, 2015 @10:58AM (#49560391) Homepage
    Oregon is a major producer of strawberries in the U.S. Sixty years ago, most of the strawberries here were picked by local youths, as their summer jobs. In the decades that followed, the tradition of kids having manual-labor jobs fell victim to increasing affluence, changing social values, and an influx of migrant workers. A new generation of parents no longer felt it important to teach their kids the work ethic through hard, manual work. Some might argue that, if the strawberries are spoiling in the fields, it started decades ago with the spoiling of our kids.
    • A new generation of parents no longer felt it important to teach their kids the work ethic through hard, manual work.

      Or maybe they felt that having their kids spending their summers slaving in fields for piss poor wages wasn't a good thing anymore. Don't know about you, but if I can find a way for my kids to have a better summer job than that, I will. Hopefully it will be something that will be in the same field they eventually want to work in.

      There are worse things than picking berries - I paid for my first year of university by picking pine cones for the MNR to eventually turn into tree seedlings for reforestation. Wou

  • The work that lazy ass "I'm too good for that..." bastards won't do... While drinking Schlitz by the gallon on their trailer home porches
  • Picking strawberries is extremely labor intensive, but it still seems like human beings would be better at picking out the good ones without damaging them than robots would. I've always thought swarms of small robots would be more useful for pest control: Seeking out and terminating with extreme prejudice any weeds, bugs, or rodents in the field. This could eliminate the use of herbicide and pesticide, hence no more need for "Roundup Resistant" and other GMO seeds. Grain losses to mice run into double-digit
  • This is exactly why we need the fucking GOP to get off their GD ass and resolve the fucking illegal issues.
    The idea of giving ALL illegals amnesty is a joke. But even worse is the idea of taking kids that have grown up here thinking that they are Americans and sending them to another nation. It absolutely shows no compassion.

    What is needed is a compromise in which the good kids are allowed to earn citizenship, the parents of any kids that remained here are allowed to have a 'pink card' ( basically, no c

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