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Does Anyone Oppose Responsible Labor Practices? PMA/United’s Joint Initiative Will Have To Navigate A Difficult Path Between Shielding The Industry & Actually Trying To Improve The Lot Of Laborers finds the Produce Marketing Association (PMA) and the United Fresh Produce Association (United Fresh) had sent a letter to their members about an initiative on labor practices. We received a number of letters on this matter, and we were provided context by leaders of both organizations. The drivers behind this initiative are not hard to intuit. This being said, we hope the committee will narrow its focus. 6/6/2016

When A Deal is Not A Deal: Immigration Reform Likely To Stall Longer Because Republicans Question If The President Will Execute Any Compromise reports that United recently sent out an announcement that it is still trying to prod immigration reform along. Since the Democratic-controlled Senate has passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, much of the trade’s ire has been directed at the Republicans, as they control the House and have not advanced a bill that would lead to a conference between the House and Senate. There is another complication that is going to make it increasingly difficult to pass immigration reform. 3/3/2014

FACING ISSUES GLOBALLY: UK And US Both Wrestle With Immigration Policy The London Produce Show And Conference Is A New Industry Fulcrum Not Only For Trade But For Sharing Ideas finds one of the things we have observed is that issues in the UK are often quite similar to those we wrestle with here in the US, Immigration being one of them. We’ve written a great deal on this issue in the US, and, right now, despite the produce trade’s best efforts, legislation appears to be going nowhere. In the UK, the trade is inflamed due to a recent decision to end a guest worker program. 11/12/2013

Industry Convenes In California: Ground Zero Of Immigration Issues… Can A Guest Worker Program Prove Milton Friedman Wrong? finds that with the United Fresh Produce Association meeting in San Diego, and one of United’s focuses being immigration, the confluence of how immigration reform might impact California agriculture is timely. So we were happy to receive a missive on the subject from Rick Eastes of Rixx International Marketing The issue of immigration is, of course, complex, and that is part of the problem. 5/13/2013

Pundit’s Mailbag — A Closer Look At Immigration And How Visas Work our piece, Immigration, One Of The Hottest Post-Election Issues, Will Be Brought To the Floor Of The New York Produce Show and Conference, highlighted this upcoming industry discussion as perfectly timed for a new national debate on immigration. We were pleased to receive a thoughtful inquiry on the immigration issue from Dan Cohen of Maccabee Seed Company. As Dan points out, not everyone wants every lifestyle, but compensation – broadly considered including vacation time, etc. — powerfully persuades people to look at various options more seriously. 11/14/2012

Immigration, One Of The Hottest Post-Election Issues, Will Be Brought To The Floor Of The New York Produce Show And Conference finds that with the election behind us, the immigration issue is likely going to come to the forefront. It is also an issue where the produce industry has interests. We got wind that a triumvirate of Cornell’s finest were working on an immigration project, so we signed them up to present at The New York Produce Show and Conference. Then we sent Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, to find out more and to get a kind of “sneak preview” of their presentation. 11/12/2012

With Penny-A-Pound ‘Victory’, Coalition of Immokalee Workers Looks To Justify Its Actions our most recent piece, titled Big Ramifications For Industry As Florida Tomato Growers Exchange Agrees To Penny-a-Pound Program, brought this response from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. We don’t find CIW’s argument persuasive as to why raising the price of Florida tomatoes will not disadvantage Florida vis-a-vis other production areas and alternative eating options. 3/22/2010

Big Ramifications For Industry As Florida Tomato Growers Exchange Agrees To Penny-A-Pound Program found that the move to so-called penny-a-pound programs seemed inexorable to us. The Florida Tomato Growers Exchange had all kinds of reasons why it couldn’t participate. They claimed anti-trust issues, practical impossibility and on and on. In the end, they changed their stance and announced their own Social Accountability Program that includes a Florida Tomato Grower Code of Conduct. Yet neither the pre-existing Socially Accountable Farm Employers, or SAFE program, nor the new Social Accountability Program are likely to satisfy self-proclaimed advocates for the migrant workers. 3/5/2010

Story of Seald Sweet And Sotomayor-Kirk Is One Of Global Outreach noticed a glowing portrait of Mayda Sotomayor-Kirk, CEO of Seald Sweet, on the cover of Florida Trend magazine. Mayda’s father fled Castro’s Cuba and brought Mayda, only three years old, and her brother to the United States on the famed Freedom Flights. Mayda’s story reminds us that though immigrants can benefit from America, America also benefits from immigrants. Mayda’s industry and intelligence testifies to that. When the issue of immigration rises again, we ought to think hard as to whether we are creating the conditions to encourage, and capitalize on, a future Mayda Sotomayor-Kirk. 2/9/2010

Union Sentiment On AgJOBS Hinges On Permanent Residency reminds that politics sometimes makes strange bedfellows, and coalitions are built and collapse. We wanted to get a sense of what was behind the union endorsement of AgJOBS and thus how sturdy this coalition will be. In order to get a better sense of union sentiment on this matter, we spoke to some union leaders privately, and Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott spoke to Sonia Ramirez, Legislative Representative for the AFL-CIO. AgJOBS has many passionate devotees. Right now organized labor is with the bill. Yet it is a bill that contains many things unions don’t like. Let the dynamic change just a bit and the future of labor support for the bill would quickly become uncertain. 5/1/2009

Pundit’s Mailbag — Guest Worker Programs mentions how our recent piece, Will US Citizens Harvest Crops? brought some interesting mail from Luawanna Hallstrom Co-chair, of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform asking us to clarify what the AFL-CIO/Change to Win Coalition position is on AgJOBS. On the specifics of what the AFL-CIO and Change to Win Coalition actually endorse at this point, we find it difficult to say for sure. We also received a thoughtful comment from Michael Angelo, Director of National Sales for Calavo Growers Inc. who is not favorably disposed to guest worker programs. His letter leads us to some of the most interesting academic work on the subject of guest workers by Philip Martin, a professor at UC Davis. 4/22/2009

Will US Citizens Harvest Crops? explains we are too much the capitalists to think it impossible to get US workers to harvest crops and, indeed, there may be some possibility for summer programs or year-long internships that both feed off the interest in knowing where our food comes from and contributes to it. For decades there have been programs in which Israeli Kibbutzim attracted volunteer labor over the summer. These are interesting types of programs and may be mutually beneficial for the industry and participants, but they are not a serious response to the overall need for labor in agriculture. Despite the recession, it is hard to imagine any circumstances in which large numbers of US citizens will start harvesting crops. 4/17/2009

‘Professor’ Bruce Peterson Talks About Traceability, Immigration, Transportation and Water Utilization discusses how since its founding, the Pundit been honored to play a role on the faculty of the United Fresh/Cornell University Produce Executive Development Program. Each year’s iteration is a unique variation on the theme. This year, one of the special aspects of the program is that we are bringing in both Bruce Peterson and Bruce Knobeloch. We did think it would be nice if we could offer a sneak peak into the insight that will be gained by participating in the program. So we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to speak with Bruce Peterson who tells us that: “Immigration is still a major political problem. There has not been meaningful change, but economic problems of the country have taken over.” 2/11/2009

Pundit’s Mailbag — Labor Shortages And Globalization Will Soon Lead To Mechanical Harvesting our recent piece, Future Labor Shortage Poses Problems for Industry brought an intriguing letter from Michigan State Professor Thomas Reardon who writes “historically, industries that face rising costs of a given factor, like labor, substitute away from that factor and into another; generally this is from labor into machines.” US growers would mechanize quickly if immigrant labor was eliminated and foreign produce could not be imported. Why? First, if there was no foreign labor, US growers would have to pay more to entice a domestic labor force into the fields. Second, if there was no competitive imported produce — assuming consumers still want the product at a higher price — growers could pay higher wages profitably, creating a demand for robots and the high wages would both incentivise developers of such systems and encourage investment to reduce manpower costs. 8/28/2008

Redlands Christian Migrant Association Is An Organization Worth Replicating Nationwide our article, Florida Tomato Growers Reject Penny-A-Pound Initiative At The Industry’s Peril, prompted readers to bring various organizations to our attention that reflect positively on the industry. One is a charity that is supported by many growers, so we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more from Barbara Mainster, Executive Director of the Redlands Christian Migrant Association. The interview is filled with important points, not the least of which is that comprehensive immigration reform is what migrant workers need. It is a broad social issue involving the quest for “cheap food”, the willingness to allow foreign competition, our mixed feelings toward immigration and much more. 1/17/2008

The Dallas Morning News’ Illegal-Immigrant Article Sparks Further Debate On Issue announces The Dallas Morning News has named “The Illegal Immigrant” as The Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year. As we begin 2008 this is a particularly important piece because immigration is one of the great unsettled issues for the industry and the country. The industry finds itself at somewhat of a dead end on immigration. We can keep pounding on our business needs and sort of hope for a break in terms of some kind of vehicle to get AgJOBS or similar legislation passed. The alternative is to bite the bullet and try to draft a new proposal that would answer the objections such as we outline above. 1/4/2008

Florida Tomato Growers Reject Penny-A-Pound Initiative At The Industry’s Peril examines how when much of the industry has been focused on an effort to explain to the American people and members of Congress that a severe labor shortage is hampering agriculture, the Florida tomato industry is acting in a manner that undermines the industry effort. Much of that effort has been devoted to getting out the message of what we in the industry need from immigration reform. We have not succeeded in getting that kind of reform. Perhaps the next step is really listening to those with different concerns, like ill-prepared migrant children burdening the schools or uninsured populations burdening the public health system, and start to develop actual responses that will alleviate these concerns. Then we might be able to actually pass some version of AgJOBS. 12/14/2007

Will Threat Of Rotten Produce Be Enough To Solve Immigration Issue? reprints a Washington Post editorial entitled, Rot in the Fields, that pretty much reads as if it were written by a coalition of produce grower groups. Getting a piece such as this in such a prominent venue and with the endorsement of the Washington Post is a big win for the industry. Unfortunately the Washington Post editorial page is unlikely to turn those “congressional Republicans and swing-state Democrats” that blocked comprehensive immigration reform earlier this year. The threat of rotten produce may be real in certain places at certain times but is probably not a sufficient threat to get people or their representatives to view immigration through the lens of the produce trade. 12/4/2007

Immigration Reform Battle Not Over; Industry Encouraged To Fight On shares a note from former Chairman of United Fresh, Maureen Torrey Marshall of Torrey Farms who has been hard at work on immigration reform and forwards an editorial from The Wall Street Journal entitled “Messed Up Manhunt.” The editorial exclaims “American agriculture also faces an acute labor shortage. If the Bush Administration wants an immigration success, it should work on expanding the supply of legal visas.” The Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform has built a substantial support base, but it will still be quite a battle to move Congress to act on agricultural related immigration issues alone. You can join that battle here. 10/24/2007

Peri & Sons Talks To Pundit About Ag Chemical Incident laments how one minute Peri & Sons Farms is celebrating its ability to grow 150 acres of different lettuces in Nevada’s Mason Valley. Next thing you know, the company suddenly finds itself the focus of headlines: “Field Gas Irritates 125 Farm Workers”. These were H2A guest workers and part of a very large guest worker program at Peri & Sons. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to learn more and find that the lessons for the broader industry are clear: the importance of emergency planning and reminds us that we cannot expect that others — rescue workers, the media, etc., - will have an understanding of agriculture unless we make it our job to educate them. There is little point in blaming the media. 10/4/2007

New York Apple Association Receives United’s Produce Advocate Of The Year Award announced that at United’s Washington Public Policy Conference the annual Produce Advocate of the Year award was given to the New York Apple Association. The Pundit was happy to be an instrument in their President Jim Allen’s efforts to spread the word about AgJOBS. Jim’s contributions appeared in pieces such as AgJOBS vs. Lou Dobbs and AgJOBS Bill Needs More Support. Congratulations to the apple growers of New York and to Jim Allen. Thanks to United Fresh for giving them their due. 9/18/2007

More Americans Farming In Mexico covers a New York Times piece entitled, “Short on Labor, Farmers in U.S. Shift to Mexico.” The gist of it is that whereas in the past, American companies farmed outside the US to avoid high land prices and to provide counter-seasonal product, now the efforts are designed to take advantage of an available labor force. The piece focuses on grower, Steve Scaroni, of Valley Harvesting & Packing, who has written letters to the editor on immigration issues before. Yet it is not clear that those who are concerned about immigration will see the article as detailing a problem. After all, labor intensive work such as textiles has already mostly relocated outside the US. From this perspective the article is just recounting how a long term trend of low skill labor moving overseas is continuing in the produce industry. 9/6/2007

Pundit’s Mailbag — How Would Founding Fathers Feel About Today’s America? our piece, Declaration of Independence, brought this letter by Haikeem A. Nelson of Chiquita Fresh N.A. who thinks the founding fathers would be disappointed with America today. We disagree. This is a country where we can speak our minds, worship the God we choose, pursue any career we are capable of. Maybe the recent immigration debate brought to the fore another lesson: Where do people want to go? We can debate the academics of comparative political systems, but didn’t the recent immigration debate hold up this one truth: we have created a society that, with all its flaws, is so attractive to people all over the world that we have to barricade the gates to keep the numbers of immigrants in the tens of millions? What other country can say that? 7/6/2007

Immigration Bill Doomed prints statements from Congressional Quarterly and United Fresh which signaled that reform of our nation’s immigration laws was blocked and comprehensive immigration legislation was pulled from the Senate floor. United Fresh pulled out all the stops. PMA worked the buying end of the industry. The regional associations all hit their representatives up hard; so many worked so hard. It turns out that though immigration reform may be important to agriculture, it is not an issue that Congress perceives as primarily agricultural in nature. For this weekend, let us tip our hat to the people who really tried to make something happen for this industry. 6/29/2007

Texas Bed And Breakfast mentions that now that the immigration compromise is in shambles, if you want to go down close to the border and reflect on immigration policy while doing some world class birding, we recommend a stay at the Casa Santa Ana bed and breakfast. 6/29/2007

Pundit’s Mailbag — Paying More For Farm Labor brings a letter from a familiar Pundit correspondent, Frank McCarthy, who points out a flaw in the assumptions made in a quote we excepted from a U.C. Davis publication which assumes that an increase in farm labor costs would be passed through to consumers without any other increase in costs. Now we know that, at least as business has traditionally been done, that won’t happen. So the question has to be, “Is there another way?” Is it possible to pay more to farm workers without it reverberating through the supply chain? 6/29/2007

Pundit’s Mailbag — A Future Without Farm Labor shares a letter from Billy Heller, of Sunripe Produce in response to our recent piece, As Immigration Bill Comes To A Vote, Questions Surface On Farm Wages. Billy makes two crucial points to remember as we discuss this issue: That until the immigration bill passes through Congress and is finally signed by the President, we don’t know what it will actually say and even if we did, the devil is in the regulations drafted to enforce the bill and that won’t be clear for months or years. So it is hypothetical at best to know the actual impact of this immigration law since we neither know how it will ultimately be drafted nor how it will be enforced. It is this industry’s job to write the plan for the future and, inevitably, the prospect of change in the future will scare a lot of people but there is no choice. 6/28/2007

As Immigration Bill Comes To A Vote, Questions Surface On Farm Wages declares the comprehensive immigration bill is still alive as the Senate voted to resume debate on the matter. Obviously the immigration issue is very complex and goes far beyond the question of produce harvesting. In a capitalist economy, an imbalance in supply and demand is resolved by changing the price. This is as true of labor as it is of cantaloupes. Is it true that we have a shortage of labor? Or is it true that we need to pay up to attract people to do this work? 6/27/2007

Compromise Immigration Bill Gets Another Chance reports the compromise immigration bill, including the AgJOBS element, is getting another chance in the Senate. Even if it passes the Senate, it has an uncertain future in the House of Representatives, with House republicans warning the President not to push too hard. Although AgJOBS itself is a big plus for the produce industry, one wonders if in the end the bill will actually help the trade’s labor situation. We really need more emphasis on how the industry can survive and thrive if labor becomes scarce and more expensive. The logical approach is to use our facility with technology to develop mechanical harvesting techniques. 6/26/2007

How Immigration/Globalization Affects The Economy discusses a new report out by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) focusing on the question of how globalization of the economy affects the labor force in the more affluent nations of the world. The Wall Street Journal did an article on the report and from their summary: “Offshoring and inexpensive imports may be hurting low-skilled workers in the U.S. and Europe to the extent that free trade and open markets could become increasingly difficult for politicians to sell to their constituents, according to one of the world’s leading economics institutes.” As the immigration debate proceeds, we will need to think about this issue in the context of helping all of America’s citizens. 6/21/2007

Del Monte Raid Sheds Light On Immigration Problems mentions that within the produce trade, the immigration issue’s focus has been labor for harvest. Yet just as important a stake in the immigration battle is the need for labor by the farmer’s customers. Restaurants and retail stores are dependent on low cost immigrant labor. A headline in The Oregonian that tells of a raid on a Fresh Del Monte facility in North Portland reminds us that processors also are often in a vulnerable position. A statement by Portland’s mayor expressed criticism that local workers and businesses were victims of bad federal policy and that no Portland officers took part in the raid. If government officials ignore laws they don’t like, then how can those who want enforcement ever think they gain something by getting stronger laws? 6/15/2007

Pundit’s Mailbag — Immigration As An Economic Issue received a letter from Rick Eastes of Rixx International Marketing Co., in which he shares an article from the Economist entitled “Guests vs. Gatecrashers”. The piece is an interesting one but strikes us as avoiding the issue as Americans would see it. One consideration is economics and whether immigration increases or decreases the income of Americans here today. The blog referenced in the article takes it one step further and says that, morally, we ought to allow immigration because the economic benefit to the immigrant is so much greater than the cost to existing citizens. Even assuming the economics are correct, it is a complicated moral issue that revolves around what ethicists would call “the relevant moral community” — in other words what group should we be concerned about? 6/14/2007

Still Fighting For AgJOBS proclaims we know of no more dedicated advocate of AgJOBS than Jim Allen, President of the New York Apple Association and last month he led a delegation to DC to fight for the issue. The President is pushing the U.S. Senate to revive the “Grand compromise” immigration bill that Majority Leader Harry Reid withdrew from the floor of the Senate. There still is a chance for passage of the bill. The problem may be that the immigration compromise is so big and involves so many issues that it provides all sides with something to hate about the bill. As an industry we may need to be prepared with a “Plan B” that focuses on the discrete needs of the produce industry for short term harvesting labor. 6/13/2007

Immigration Compromise Looks Less Likely To Pass reveals news out of D.C. that the immigration compromise that included the AgJOBS initiative is in trouble. Opposition has been building from business, and a vote on an amendment seemed to break the coalition supporting the “grand compromise” on immigration reform. As the bill looks unlikely to get through the Senate or Congress, both parties were looking to assign blame, although we are not sure its demise will hurt either party. If the bill fails, it will not be for lack of produce industry effort. It will speak to the limitations of an industry to impact legislation on an issue that affects our country in so many ways. 6/8/2007

Pundit’s Mailbag — English And Immigration shares a letter from Jon Schwalls at Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetables which quotes Theodore Roosevelt in a letter written to the president of the American Defense Society just three days before Roosevelt’s death, which along with other comments the Pundit is receiving, indicate that many in the produce industry are concerned for the future of the country. The communications sent out by the trade associations really are not addressing these concerns. One thing the associations clearly are correct on is that on the quality and quantity of that feedback, the future of this bill will surely depend. 5/23/2007

Pundit’s Mailbag — ‘Unworkable’ Immigration Plan our piece Compromise Reached On Immigration Reform, But The Battle Is Far From Over brought comments from an experienced industry hand who explains why he thinks the Immigration Reform bill won’t work. Immigration is such a complex and important issue that to confront it from a produce-centric standpoint is a little odd. Our correspondent approaches the issue from a broader economic perspective. Yet even this leaves questions unanswered. The problem is not so much with the immigrants as with our own culture. There is little question that, as our correspondent writes, this new plan “won’t work,” but many in D.C. just want a bill. One thing about this bill is certain, pass or fail; we will need another one a few years down the road. 5/22/2007

Compromise Reached On Immigration Reform, But The Battle Is Far From Over assures High-Fives were being passed around the Ag community in D.C. today as key Senators announced an agreement on a comprehensive immigration reform package. Yet, although lauding the compromise as a “tremendous accomplishment” United Fresh acknowledged in an alert sent to its members: “Additional details will be forthcoming on specifics of the Senate compromise.” We understand that the compromise does not settle all the issues and that the Senators “agreed to disagree” on many important issues, leaving them to be determined by a floor vote. There is no question that industry members who flew into DC to lobby had a real effect keeping the issue of ag workers highly visible. So thanks are due and satisfaction for something achieved well merited. However, this is far from over. 5/18/2007

AgJOBS Apathy? describes how the other day we happened to run two unrelated stories that came to be an interesting experiment. One story dealt with Taylor Farms and Dole both announcing price increases tied to food safety program costs, with a link to a letter Dole sent its suppliers regarding the increase. The other story elaborated on an industry-wide effort to pass the AgJOBS legislation to ensure adequate harvesting labor and had many links to ways individuals and companies could lobby legislators, help PMA or help United on this effort. The link to the Dole pricing memo received more than a hundred times the number of clicks on the AgJOBS piece. What could this mean? 5/2/2007

AgJOBS Gets ‘Pull’ From PMA While United And Others Provide The Push announced PMA has launched a communications campaign to enlist the produce industry in the battle to pass the AgJOBS bill. PMA has long interacted with regulators and the media and participated in coalitions to advance the interests of the trade, but it is United that has done the actual lobbying on the Hill. PMA didn’t want to be seen as stepping on United’s toes or duplicating industry efforts, so some smart people came up with the idea of using PMA’s greater reach among the buying end of the industry and turn them into advocates for grower interests. PMA is saying that although the production end of the industry may be the one directly impacted by a labor shortage, a shortage of product and a reduction in the number of workers (read it as shoppers) hurts the whole supply chain. 4/24/2007

Pundit Mailbag — AgJOBS Bill Needs More Support prints a letter from repeat correspondent Jim Allen of the New York Apple Association, who once again draws attention to an impending Ag labor shortage. This is a serious problem. A good friend of the Pundit is not planting certain field crops in certain states because of the real risk that no labor will be available to harvest the crop. For growers of tree crops such as Jim Allen’s New York apple growers, they risk having long-since sunken capital rendered worthless because they can’t harvest their crops. So Jim’s urgency is well placed and, indeed, those concerned about this issue need to be speaking out now. 4/10/2007

Pundit’s Mailbag — AgJOBS vs. H-2A our piece Pundit’s Mailbag — AgJOBS vs. Lou Dobbs brought a note from Charles Walker, Managing Director of the National Peach Council who asks: “why don’t growers use the H-2A visa program? Our peach growers have been using the H-2A program for some time.” Mr. Walker is asking an important question and one that may point to why the industry is having such difficulty getting the legislation it would like passed. Many growers don’t like the H-2A program. The program is complex, so we asked Robert L. Guenther, Senior Vice President Public Policy for United Fresh Produce Association, to do a little Guest Punditing and let us know what United saw as the flaws in the H-2A program. 3/22/2007

Pundit’s Mailbag — AgJOBS vs. Lou Dobbs shares a poignant letter from Jim Allen of the New York Apple Association who, considering all the subjects covered by the Pundit over the last few months, asks, “How would all of these issues and topics be changed if we do not have adequate labor supplies to harvest the crops?” Jim catches the horn of the dilemma clearly when he talks about Lou Dobbs. It is not Lou Dobbs, per se; if he didn’t exist someone else would be spouting his position. The problem for the industry is that the AgJOBS issue has a high enough saliency with ordinary Americans that Lou Dobbs is talking about it at all. 3/16/2007

AgJOBS Take 2 reports there was a Congressional Press Conference on the reintroduction of the AgJOBS bill. United Fresh applauded, PMA also reaffirmed its support. The Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association praised Florida lawmakers for their role in the bill’s introduction. John McClung, President & CEO of the Texas Produce Association, also reaffirmed the Texas trade’s support for AgJOBS in an e-mail to the Pundit. The politicos all report that with the switch in Congress to the Democrats, the chances for the bill’s passage are much improved. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Part of the problem is that the government just has no credibility on this issue. 1/12/2007

Reducing Labor With Technology points out that one wild card in the immigration issue is what the industry could actually do in terms of mechanizing harvesting if labor is expensive or unavailable. At the recent California Valley Grape and Raisin Expo, Dr. Robert Wample, head of Fresno State’s viticulture and enology program, made an announcement of progress on mechanical harvesting for grapes. Whatever the legislative outcome, guest worker programs are always going to be problematic. A focus on technology to reduce labor needs is essential if agriculture is going to thrive in high-labor-cost countries. 12/15/2006

Immigration And The Poultry Industry highlights a piece that points out that Delaware’s poultry-processing plants depend heavily on immigrants, many of whom are suspected of being illegal. It is a useful reminder that the immigration issue, which we have dealt with herehere and here, affects more than the produce industry. But whether it is poultry or produce, the problem is the same. 10/20/2006

300 Million Hungry Mouths To Feed reveals that sometime Tuesday, it is believed that the 300-millionth American was born — or perhaps, immigrated, legally or illegally. The almost complete silence on that matter illustrates how America’s traditional sense of optimism about the future has been replaced by uncertainty. Immigration is a hot button issue and after high point at the turn of the century, the U.S. had placed tight limits on immigration in the early 1920’s. So by the early 1960s, there had been a 40-year process of consolidation. Today we are in the throes of dealing with a wave that will change America as surely as the immigrant wave at the turn of the century changed America. So population growth is a sore point. 10/18/2006

Straight Talk On Immigration having dealt with immigration reform before, we would be remiss if we didn’t discuss today’s legislative situation with regard to immigration, which was the real focus of United’s Washington Public Policy Conference. The Pundit’s reading of the political tea leaves, though, is that United and others in its coalition are very possibly going to lose and that there will be either no law or none with a guest worker program included. If we really want to pass a guest-worker program, I think we need to add two elements to the current proposals. 9/27/2006

United’s Government Relations Challenge observed that the big kick off for the newly created United Fresh Produce Association was at United’s Washington Public Policy Conference. This is United’s great event that perfectly showcases what the association actually does. Today’s big issue and the big push at the Washington Public Policy Conference is immigration reform. This is a very difficult issue for United. Although certain growers are very dependent on Mexican labor, especially those in the West, many growers don’t use such laborers at all. Other parts of the United membership may have different views on these issues as well as different economic interests. 9/19/2006

Pundit’s Mailbag — Immigration conveyed some very incisive thoughts on “the drug of cheap labor” in response to our piece on immigration. This reader points out in his note that there are many costs to farm labor and not all of it is reflected in the price of the goods. If there are external costs to hiring the current classification of farm labor and we restrict that classification from entering, from a societal standpoint it means that there will be more resources available to deal with any problems that come about if labor does become constrained due to restrictions on immigration. We haven’t had the will because there was no need to abandon our reliance on cheap labor and find a better way of doing things. 8/17/2006

Doubtful Immigration Policy addresses immigration as a crucial issue to business in general and the food industry in particular. It is said that no industry is as dependent on illegal immigrants as the business of harvesting produce. Yet I would say the biggest obstacle to actually passing immigration legislation is the total breakdown of trust that the government will enforce any law that is passed. 8/11/2006

 

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