Modern Farmer’s Spring cover warned: “The trouble with Trump; no immigrants, no food.” Inside, Brian Barth addressed the obvious fact that most of the crops in this country are harvested by “undocumented Mexican immigrants….Americans avoid these jobs, yet elected a president who promised mass deportations.” Barth writes that, in 2013, The Center for Global Development and the Partnership for a New American Economy released North Carolina employment data on referrals to the North Carolina Growers Association, which recruits workers for farmers.
During the 15 years from 1998 to 2012, with the exception of 2007 where information is lacking, the North Carolina Employment offices referred 1,729 people to the Growers. Of that number, 686 (40 percent) actually showed up for work. Of those 686 farm workers, 67 finished the season. That’s almost 10 percent of those who started the farm work and nearly 4 percent of those eligible for the jobs.
Barth cited another study where “less than one-tenth of one percent of job-seeking citizens took referrals for farm jobs.” I doubt if many of us would have to look too far to find someone to tell us why these numbers are so low. Farming and ranching demand long, hard work. Now, fast-forward to the middle of last month. Susan Ferriss of the Center for Public Integrity authored a report which Politico headlined:“How Trump’s Immigration Crackdown threatens to choke Idaho’s Dairy Industry.”
The shot-to-the-foot mentality of Trump and his bigot brigade is revealed when Ferriss writes: “Idaho dairy industry representatives estimate that between 85 to 90 percent of on-site dairy workers (in Idaho) are foreign-born. The U.S. Department of Labor and other estimates suggest that nearly half to 70 percent of all U.S. farm laborers are undocumented…
“That’s why farmers’ groups have for years pushed Congress, unsuccessfully, to make it possible for them to legally employ immigrants they say are desperately needed. Prospects don’t look any rosier now. In recent months, anti-immigrant rhetoric has only grown more vitriolic, and Trump supporters – including some (in Idaho) – are expecting the president to follow through on campaign promises and deport more people.” Mass deportations threaten not only the industries involved – think of the hog farms in Oklahoma’s northwest quadrant – but also the rest of us who have grown used to eating cheap, readily available food.
Barth observed last spring that a “2014 study from the American Farm Bureau Federation analyzed various immigration scenarios and predicted that such an ‘enforcement only’ policy would lead to a 30 to 40 percent loss of net vegetable and fruit revenue in the coming years, due to a combination of decreased productivity and higher labor costs. Last year the Farm Bureau’s president, Zippy Duvall, warned of an impending labor crisis, alleging that crops were likely to rot in the fields as a result of labor shortages in at least 20 states.”
Food costs will skyrocket. And, while that may prove same-cycle karmic justice for non-billionaire racists spewing hatred, it will hurt us virtuous folks as well.
(Gary Edmondson is Stephens County Democratic Party Chair.)