Why Subsidize Labor for Farmers When the Cost of Illegals is so High?

Dear Editor,
A recent article concerning the shortage of laborers needed for
farms in California is one-sided and superficial. The real issue is
quite different than the one being discussed in the article. The
author carefully skirts the word

illegal

until very deep into the article.
Dear Editor,

A recent article concerning the shortage of laborers needed for farms in California is one-sided and superficial. The real issue is quite different than the one being discussed in the article. The author carefully skirts the word “illegal” until very deep into the article.

The heart of this growing national debate is the status of illegal aliens in the United States. No controversy even exists over the situation of U.S. citizens working or not working in the harvesting of crops for American farmers. If we choose to work the harvests at the prices offered, fine. If we choose not to, that is also fine. No different than any other industry.

The real issue however is the millions of citizens of other countries who come to and are in the United States illegally. To propose to discuss the so-called farm labor shortage independent of the issue of illegal aliens is, well, disingenuous.

Pro open-borders advocates are fond of stating that illegals will take jobs that Americans will not. Nonsense. What they mean is that illegals will take jobs that Americans will not at the price that employers would like to pay.

Are the farmers trying to say that U.S. citizens will not take farm jobs that pay, for example, the same rates as U.S. auto workers are paid?

The farm lobby has succeeded in getting the American taxpayer to subsidize a continuing source of underpaid labor both in terms of wages and medical benefits. As long as the price of farm labor is low, there is little incentive to mechanize or automate farm operations. When I was a boy, I picked cherries in my Uncle Fred’s orchards in northern Michigan. It was indeed hard work, but all the young people of that area picked both cherries and strawberries as a summer job. Part of the harvest workers were migrant laborers at that time also.

In time, the farmers in that area invented or discovered the use of shakers for harvesting cherries. An orchard that used to be picked by a force of 100 or more manual pickers was replaced by a group of five workers with a tractor, a shaker and a tanker truck. So why do the farmers of California continue to hand-pick the fine Bing cherries that we enjoy in this area? The answer is because there is a taxpayer subsidized source of cheap labor available and there is little incentive to automate.

As to the quality of the Bing cherries, anyone that has tasted tree–shaken Bing cherries from Grand Traverse of Leelanau Counties in Michigan or Door County in northern Wisconsin, knows that the quality of that fruit is every bit the equal of the hand-picked Bings of California. As for jobs that U.S. citizens are supposedly unwilling to take, since when are U.S. citizens unwilling to take jobs in construction? The construction industry jobs have always been at the heart of blue-collar America. It’s an insult to hardworking U.S. citizens to say that they are unwilling to take construction jobs.

Also, are the hotel and motel rooms in other parts of the country where there is not a ready source of cheap migrant labor not being cleaned? Oh and by the way, why is it that California has some of the highest construction costs in the United States if the construction jobs are being done by cheap illegal labor?

But the larger point concerning illegal immigration has to do with sovereignty. Since when did the voters of the United States decide that we do not need borders at all, that we really do not need to be a sovereign nation with borders and laws? I certainly do not remember voting on this important issue. Yet many unelected leaders are attempting to preempt the citizenry and make this into accepted policy. Are we really ready to adopt a citizens-of-the-world allegiance and discard the concept of being a citizen of the United States? That is really what the growing national debate is all about, and I for one say let’s have the debate. It would be a great service if the Dispatch would throw its reporting and editorial resources into that debate.

Al Kelsch, Hollister

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