California: Who'll Pick the Strawberries?

In the hothouse valleys of California, acres of strawberries and asparagus last week were spoiling in the fields while growers looked with foreboding to the summer's melon and lettuce harvest. Al though the state has nearly 440,000 un employed, it faces a severe farm-labor shortage and huge losses in its biggest ($3.5 billion) industry — farming.

For years the backbreaking job of picking the big crops was done mostly by Mexican immigrant workers, known as braceros (arm laborers), who crossed the border in droves during peak sea sons. They lived, for the most part, in shanties, often received less than...

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