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David Sparks Ph.d Ag Labor Changes
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Line on Agriculture
Date: July 11, 2019

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A declining farm industry workforce is evident from a variety of sources. Take the most recent Census of Agriculture which showed the average age of all producers rose from five years ago. Now at 57 and a half years old. There are reports of farm labor shortages to harvest crops in our country. Yet New Mexico's state agriculture secretary Jeff Witte says this is a problem found across the globe.

We were in Mexico, beautiful agriculture. Guess who was working the fields? It was Guatemalans. Last year I went to Guatemala. Who's working the fields? Colombians. Every country I've been in lately. When you ask where the labor comes from. It comes from someplace else. They're not getting any younger either.

This is also evident in key support industries for agriculture, such as research and development. As Ohio State University vice president for agriculture Kathy Ann Cress points out, this is due in part to a lack of understanding. The public in general, less aware of the ag production process as well as the diversity of career fields available in ag.

We're fighting against a tremendous number of stereotypes in what they think a career in food and agriculture looks like. Not very many of them understand how high tech our field is, not many understand how dynamic it is and we are also at a time when there is a lifestyle choice among a certain demographic of Millennials that have the perception that if they choose a green lifestyle, it means they cannot choose a lifestyle that supports agriculture.

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