Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/1/2004
Publication Date: 10/7/2004
Citation: Posadas, B., Knight, P., Coker, C., Fain, G.B., Veal, D., Coker, R. 2004. Socioeconomic survey of nursery automation. Meeting Abstract, pg 5.
Technical Abstract: The major limitation to growth of the greenhouse nursery industry is the shortage of qualified labor for container-based handling of plants. A recent national survey of commercial nursery/landscape operations listed labor shortage as the number one limitation facing the industry at the end of 2001, with 68.4% of the respondents citing labor as a critical issue for their business. Many of the jobs in the greenhouse nursery industry require large amounts of stooping, lifting of heavy containers, and exposure to chemicals, dust, and plant materials. These jobs tend to be relatively low paying, making it difficult to compete for and retain workers in a tight labor market. Many commercial operations have turned to immigrant labor to meet their labor requirements; however, these workers are often relatively unskilled, not speaking English and many lack driver's license and needed certifications. There is a need to increase the skill level of workers in order to improve wage rates, recruitment, and retention of workers. The socioeconomic (SEC) project aims to achieve the following objectives: 1.) to develop socioeconomic profiles of horticulture workers in the region; 2.) to formulate an index of automation for horticulture nurseries in the region; 3.) to evaluate the effects of automation on the socioeconomic characteristics of horticulture workers in the region; and 4.) to create a socioeconomic database for horticulture workers in the region. The focus of the SEC project is the greenhouse and nursery industry of in the Northern Gulf of Mexico which includes Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. The region's population is 61-72% white, 26-37% African American, and 2-3% other racial groups. Those who had at least a bachelor's degree comprised 18% in Mississippi to 21% in Alabama and Louisiana, which were below the national average. Those who did not complete formal high school education ranged from 21% in Alabama to 25% in Mississippi, which were also higher than that of the national average. The percent of the population who spoke a language other than English at home ranged from 3% in Mississippi to 9% in Louisiana. The incidence of poverty in all the states covered was also higher than that reported for the entire nation, ranging from 17% in Alabama to 20% in Mississippi. The target populations are laborers indirectly through the operators of the greenhouse/nursery industry. The above demographic characteristics indicate that the region has a very low paid, relatively unskilled labor force from which the greenhouse nursery industry can recruit. As of July 2004, more than 50 interviews with nursery and greenhouse operators had been completed in Mississippi and Louisiana. Interviews with growers in Alabama will be completed in a couple of months. The results of this nursery survey are used to evaluate the socioeconomic impact of automation on greenhouse nursery workers.