Trump Effect: Farmers Turn from Foreign Pickers to Automation

Farm automation has been progressing along, just like uses of smart machines in other industries, but agbots may now be getting an extra boost. Apparently President Trump’s crackdown on illegal border crossings has decreased the supply of foreign pickers, so farmers are looking more favorably at tech solutions. The transition would have happened anyway, but immigration enforcement is speeding it up a bit.

Not only are there are robot weeders, pickers and cultivators, but cows can now walk into an automated milker when they feel the need.

Agricultural automation makes immigrant farm workers obsolete.

Who will pick the strawberries without illegal immigrants? ROBOTS!

For an extra automation touch, you can listen to the Reuters article posted below being read by a robot:

As Trump targets immigrants, U.S. farm sector looks to automate, Reuters, November 9, 2017

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Convincing big U.S. dairy owners to buy robots to milk their cows – and reduce the farmhands they employ – used to be a tough sell for Steve Fried. Recently, his job has gotten easier, he says, in part because of President Donald Trump.

“I get calls on a daily basis and it typically starts with, ‘I don’t want to deal with this labor headache any more’,” said Fried, sales manager for Lely North America, which makes robotic dairy milking and feeding systems.

Trump’s crackdown on illegal immigration through stepped-up arrests and border enforcement has shaken the U.S. agricultural sector, where as many as 7 in 10 farm workers are undocumented, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

In addition, Republican lawmakers in Congress have introduced legislation that would require all employers to check social security numbers against federal databases to ensure their workers are in the country legally, something that is now voluntary in all but a handful of states.

The get-tough approach “has created a great deal of anxiety,” said Tom Vilsack, chief executive of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, who was U.S. Agriculture Secretary for eight years under President Barack Obama.

The shift comes as the industry was already struggling to cope with a shrinking, aging workforce. That is ratcheting up pressure on the sector to embrace new technology.

Farmers and food companies increasingly are moving to automate dairy operations, chicken processing, crop production and harvesting. Even delicate crops such as strawberries and peaches are being considered for mechanization.

“You’d be a fool to not have a plan that moves you that way,” said Duff Bevill, who owns a vineyard management company in Sonoma County, California.

(Continues)

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