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« Getting hot in here | Main | At least it wasn't collect »

Oct 21, 2011

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Patrick

The textile industry didn't die. It moved. The blueberry farms will move, too. We don't like it when the workers start moving around like the owners, but we haven't quite figured out how to keep buying jeans and blueberrys in a country that can't make anything. Selling our houses to each other seemed like a good idea, but it didn't work out. It's OK though. Cold fusion will change everything. Or Jesus will come back.

Bill Yaner

I don't think it raises questions of pay so much as questions of filling a very tough job. Anyone who's planted or harvested a field in the summer knows the strain that puts on your back and knees and how exhausting it becomes over the course of the day.

When Mexicans don't show up from fear of being deported, farmers all across the country have struggled to fill their places.

There's a good letter to the editor in today's N&R that praises the work done by immigrants, and I agree with it 100%.

Billy Jones

Some interesting facts about food in the US.
25% of America's domestically grown food is wasted.
2% of imported food is inspected.
As of 2008, 15% of America's food was imported.

We throw away more food than we import and then run off the only people capable of growing and harvesting more.

Sounds logical to me.

I've worked hard all my life and at times that included some very hard physical work but while I'm able to grow more than my family can eat in my own little backyard garden, there is no way in Hell I could survive a single day on a modern farm.

I've had quite a few Hispanics working for me in the past and one thing I can say for certain is that, left to their own devices, they will run off a lazy worker without any help from management.

Ed Cone

BY, seems to me the tough work and low pay issues are not mutually exclusive. Immigrants will do the hard job for going rates because those rates seem relatively reasonable compared to wages at home, and the presence of low-cost migrant labor keeps wages artificially low, discouraging Americans from taking those jobs.

Bill Yaner

True, Ed, the two issues are linked into one sucky job. But is it the low cost migrant worker who keeps wages artificially low, or is that the level of wages that a small to medium sized farm needs to pay to stay in business?

Ed Cone

"...is that the level of wages that a small to medium sized farm needs to pay to stay in business?"

Which leads us back to the question about pricing of food in the consumer market, and also to the impact of agribusiness on farming.

Another way of looking at this is considering external costs -- if illegal immigration is a big problem (a cost), then the market price of farmed products does not reflect its total cost.

Bill Yaner

And that impact of agribusiness on farming has one more connected string, i.e. our federal subsidy of corn which, combined with agribusiness' hybrids and fertilizers, has made it impossible for the small farmer in Mexico to compete. Ergo, a wave of illegal immigrants driven off their own farms onto the fields of the U.S. looking for some way to feed their families.

And as if that picture isn't maddening enough, throw in more subsidies for ethanol which now accounts for 40%, I believe, of all the corn we grow, and ain't this all, in the words of an old PBS show, just one big, American dream machine?

Talk about "external costs".

justcorbly

Billy, I''d swap "capable" for "want to". Plenty of "Americans" are capable of working in the fields, but, as Alabama is finding out, don't really want to.

The world is a village, you know. The problem with giant institutions llike agribusiness is not that they exist. They are essential to and inevitable in a global market. Notions that, for example, we are going to feed the world with local food, are fantasies. We can't.

We aren't doing a very good job of governing and managing this new global village. We act like some League of Tiny Villages trying to decided where to build a railroad.


justcorbly

Here are a few reasons for our current malaise:

1. HIghest unemployment since the Great Depression

2. Corporate profits at an all-time high.

3. Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all-time low. Earnings haven't increased in 50 years, after inflation.

4. Income and wealth inequality are at a near all-time high.

Bill Yaner  N

That's it justcorbly. You nailed it.

Andrew Brod

Here's another one (which I've linked to previously), which is relevant both because OWS is angry mostly at Wall Street, and because the financial sector accounts for a disproportionate share of corporate profits.

brian

Another way to look at it, is what American can afford to work on a farm? Putting aside that it is back breaking work (I spent one summer on my stomach, face 12" from the ground on the back of a tractor picking cucumbers in MA for $8.00/hr), there's no way a laborer's wage is enough to pay the bills. If you're going to get that meager pay without benefits, might as well work at Wal-Mart, or stay on unemployment.

Billy Jones

justcorbly, I want to work on a farm but experience (and my health) has taught me I'm simply not capable of performing up to par on a modern, up to date farm where machines, rather than humans, set the pace of the work. All my family came from the farms, I'm the first generation removed, but the speed at which modern farms operate is something only the young can survive. Most of us simply aren't capable of doing the work.

And yes, a lot of people simply don't want to.

And Brian, I bet you were a whole lot younger then than you are now.

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