Trump got into office partly because he promised to get rid of the “millions” of undocumented immigrants in the country, and so far a lot of them have either been deported or left on their own accord.
Predictably, that’s having unforeseen consequences, including for those who voted for Trump, in the agriculture industry.
Undocumented immigrants make up about half the workforce in U.S. agriculture, according to various estimates. But that pool of labor is shrinking, which could spell trouble for farms, feedlots, dairies, and meatpacking plants—particularly in a state such as Kansas, where unemployment in many counties is barely half the already tight national rate. “Two weeks ago, my boss told me, ‘I need more Mexicans like you,’” says a 25-year-old immigrant employed at a farm in the southwest part of the state, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he’s trying to get his paperwork in order. “I said, ‘Well, they’re kind of hard to find.’”
Others feel the same way. “The threat of deportation and the potential loss of our workforce has been very terrifying for all of us businesses here,” says Trista Priest in Satanta, Kan. She’s the chief strategy officer at Cattle Empire, the country’s fifth-largest feed yard, whose workforce is about 86 percent Latino.
In Haskell County, where Cattle Empire is the biggest employer, 77 percent of voters cast ballots for Trump, compared with 57 percent statewide. But Priest and other employers interviewed for this story complained that the immigration policies emanating from Washington, 1,500 miles away, clash with the needs of local businesses.
Representative Roger Marshall, a Republican whose district includes southwest Kansas, says immigration is the No. 1 concern he hears about from constituents. The freshman congressman says he’s confident that once the border is secure, “President Trump will look at this, too, as an economic problem.”
Right. The guy that created the economic problem is going to solve it?
Here’s the main point: there’s a labor shortage in all markets (thanks, Obama, for fixing the Great Recession) so even if there were Americans who would take the jobs, they’re not available; they already have a job. And jobs in agriculture are mainly low-paying, highly physical jobs that don’t appeal to those Trump voters who were promised roses and rainbows and so much success that they’d be tired of it. So mucking out a feedlot of several tons of literal bullshit is not exactly the American dream.
By the way, “more Mexicans” are getting harder to find. Immigration from Mexico has slowed to the point that there are more people going back there than coming here.