UC Davis Agricultural and Resource Economics

Zachariah Rutledge, University of California, Davis

No Farm Workers, No Food? Evidence from Specialty Crop Production

Date and Location

Thursday, October 22, 2020, 4:10 PM - 5:30 PM


This study provides reduced-form estimates of the effects of shifts in the farm labor supply on hand-harvested fruit and vegetable production. Using crop production and employment data from California, I estimate fixed-effects panel regressions linking farm employment (measured at the county-year level) to crop production outcomes (measured at the crop-county-year level). Because I use variation in equilibrium employment, as opposed to exogenous variation in the labor supply, I use an equilibrium displacement model to identify plausible sources of bias that may affect my empirical estimates. This exercise reveals that my point estimates should be interpreted as upper bounds for the effects of interest. Empirically, these bounds indicate that a one percent decrease in the farm labor supply (in terms of the number of workers) causes at most a 0.38% reduction in production in the top 10 producing counties, which together produce 86% of the total value of hand-harvested crops in the state. Production effects are channeled primarily through a reduction in harvested acreage, although there are some effects on yield.

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