One kind of drought ends for California farms, but another — of immigrants to work in the fields — now looms

One kind of drought ends for California farms, but another — of immigrants to work in the fields — now looms.
View photosMore FIREBAUGH, Calif. — There were moments when Joe Del Bosque wondered if his farm could survive.
For six long years, Del Bosque, the son of migrant farmworkers who has worked the land his entire life, watched as his 2,000-acre farm here in California’s Central Valley slowly dried up, the victim of a near-biblical drought that many likened to a modern version of the Dust Bowl, when every single drop of water was a precious commodity.
It didn’t happen, but the visit made Del Bosque the face of a drought that threatened to destroy farming in a region that provides half the nation’s fruit and vegetables.
Late last year, all over California, it began to rain, and in the Sierra Nevada, it began to snow — historic storms that replenished streams and reservoirs that supply water for much of the state.
“Now we have the water we need,” Del Bosque said on a recent afternoon as he walked a reporter through a melon field he was getting ready to plant.
“But now I don’t know if we have the people we need to pick the crops.” President Trump’s pledge to crack down on illegal immigration has sent chills through the Central Valley, where farmers like Del Bosque rely heavily on migrant farm labor to plant, tend and pick their crops.
Though there’s no complete tally, a recent Department of Agriculture study estimated that nearly 60 percent of California’s farm laborers are “unauthorized” to work in the U.S. — a number that has steadily increased over the years as farmers have struggled to find those willing to do the jobs.
“Ten years ago, people would just show up and ask for work.
There’s not enough people, and there’s lots of competition, not just from farmers here but from people on the coast like Salinas and Watsonville, who are coming over to try and hire our workers because they can’t find people there.”

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