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David Sparks Ph.d Migration
by David Sparks Ph.d, click here for bio

Program: Line on Agriculture
Date: January 24, 2018

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According to the US Department of Labor National Agricultural Worker Survey 2013-2014, sixty-eight percent of hired farmworkers nationally were born in Mexico, while 27 percent were born in the US. The number of US citizens working in agriculture has been steadily increasing throughout the past two decades. Since 2001 the rates of citizens working in agriculture has increased from 21-33 percent. In other words, fewer farm workers are migrating in the traditional sense (e.g. travel back and forth to Mexico on a seasonal basis).

These numbers make sense. Border crossing became much more difficult and dangerous in the early 1990s as a result of “Prevention through Deterrence” border security policy. As a result, we have a situation today where farm workers have “settled” in rural communities (defined by the USDA as working at a single location within 75 miles of their home).

Indeed, rural Idaho would be in population decline were it not for Hispanic communities: from 2010 to 2014: rural Idaho’s Hispanic population grew by 9%, while its non-Hispanic population decreased by 1%. Twelve percent of Idaho residents today identify as Latina/o. In Canyon County, however, where the majority of hops production is located in the state, the population is 25% Hispanic, (primarily of Mexican origin) the highest of any county in the state. 

And in the area with the greatest concentration of hops production, the Hispanic population is actually closer to 75%. For example, in the town of Wilder, which is surrounded by hops fields, the vast majority of Latina/o families moved into the area prior to the 1990s. Today, Wilder is the first city in Idaho to elect an all Latino City Council. Indeed, rural Idaho would be in population decline were it not for Hispanic communities: from 2010 to 2014: rural Idaho’s Hispanic population grew by 9%, while its non-Hispanic population decreased by 1%. Statewide, most of Idaho’s Hispanics (70%) were born in the U.S., and the vast majority (79%) are U.S. citizens.

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