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  • You Can't Eat What They Don't Pick

    If immigration bill dies, so will many crops. U.S. consumers...can blame Congress for making a trip to the supermarket more expensive, and perhaps riskier.

    By Dan Moffett
    Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, July 29, 2007

    Idaho Republican Larry Craig ranks among the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate, and California Democrat Barbara Boxer could be the most liberal lawmaker in the entire Congress.

    But last week, Sens. Craig and Boxer stood shoulder-to-shoulder, rallying to each other's support and defense, during an often contentious fight on the Senate floor. There was no left or right. There was no ideological divide or partisan posturing. Sens. Craig and Boxer were inseparable as they talked about the nation's most divisive issue: immigration reform.

    The reason? Both come from states that stand to take heavy losses of fruits and vegetables because farmers are unable to find workers for harvesting.

    Sen. Craig has potatoes that are moldering in the ground. Sen. Boxer has oranges that are rotting on the trees.

    When Congress failed to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill last month, provisions that would have allowed migrant farmworkers temporary legal status failed, too. Across the country, tens of thousands of immigrants who fear deportation or government penalties are staying away from farm fields.

    "American agriculture is now in a crisis, in part because we have failed to pass an immigration bill," Sen. Craig told his colleagues. He said Idaho was short about 20 percent of the farmworkers it needed; nationally, the underemployment rate for the harvest season was about 35 percent.

    Sen. Boxer predicted that the situation would get worse - "this is just the start of this thing" - and pleaded with senators to set aside immigration politics and fix the farm crisis by passing AgJobs, a guest-worker plan that has bounced between Senate committees and assorted floor fights for four years.

    In fact, AgJobs has been around so long that one of its principal authors, Florida's Bob Graham, has long been gone from the Senate. The bill, a five-year plan that would legalize between 900,000 and 1.2 million farmworkers, ran aground again last month when the compromise over immigration reform fell apart.

    Sen. Craig is among a group of farm state senators - Florida's Mel Martinez and Bill Nelson are also aboard - trying to pass AgJobs as stand-alone legislation and avoid the trappings of the greater immigration debate.

    But that isn't easy. It may not even be possible.

    Efforts to get AgJobs moving have stalled because of bickering over border security. Senate Republicans last week pushed measures that would appropriate $3 billion to add fences and patrols to the U.S.-Mexico border. More problematic, in the GOP amendment was a provision to require mandatory jail time for immigrants who overstay their visas. It also gave police, hospital workers and some public employees the authority to question people about their immigration status.

    Democrats protested. Republicans dug in. The debate got testy and gave people in the C-SPAN cafeteria something to chat about. But nothing got done.

    So Sen. Craig's potatoes are a molderin' in their graves, and Sen. Boxer's fruit is dying on the vine.

    Frustrated with the federal government's inability to solve the immigrant labor problem, some farmers are renting land in Mexico to grow their crops. You know Congress has failed the nation when American farmers start deporting themselves.

    Florida agriculture has labor problems but no crisis - yet. The winter harvest will tell the story. Without some sort of guest-worker reform, says Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association President Mike Stuart, there will be shortages of manpower. "That means leaving fruit and vegetable crops in the fields," he said. "Consequently, production will shift offshore, and we will become more dependent on foreign sources for our food supply."

    U.S. consumers, who already were trying to figure out how to protect themselves against foods from Asia and Latin America that come here with inadequate inspections and safeguards, can blame Congress for making a trip to the supermarket more expensive, and perhaps riskier.

  • #2
    If immigration bill dies, so will many crops. U.S. consumers...can blame Congress for making a trip to the supermarket more expensive, and perhaps riskier.

    By Dan Moffett
    Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
    Sunday, July 29, 2007

    Idaho Republican Larry Craig ranks among the most conservative members of the U.S. Senate, and California Democrat Barbara Boxer could be the most liberal lawmaker in the entire Congress.

    But last week, Sens. Craig and Boxer stood shoulder-to-shoulder, rallying to each other's support and defense, during an often contentious fight on the Senate floor. There was no left or right. There was no ideological divide or partisan posturing. Sens. Craig and Boxer were inseparable as they talked about the nation's most divisive issue: immigration reform.

    The reason? Both come from states that stand to take heavy losses of fruits and vegetables because farmers are unable to find workers for harvesting.

    Sen. Craig has potatoes that are moldering in the ground. Sen. Boxer has oranges that are rotting on the trees.

    When Congress failed to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill last month, provisions that would have allowed migrant farmworkers temporary legal status failed, too. Across the country, tens of thousands of immigrants who fear deportation or government penalties are staying away from farm fields.

    "American agriculture is now in a crisis, in part because we have failed to pass an immigration bill," Sen. Craig told his colleagues. He said Idaho was short about 20 percent of the farmworkers it needed; nationally, the underemployment rate for the harvest season was about 35 percent.

    Sen. Boxer predicted that the situation would get worse - "this is just the start of this thing" - and pleaded with senators to set aside immigration politics and fix the farm crisis by passing AgJobs, a guest-worker plan that has bounced between Senate committees and assorted floor fights for four years.

    In fact, AgJobs has been around so long that one of its principal authors, Florida's Bob Graham, has long been gone from the Senate. The bill, a five-year plan that would legalize between 900,000 and 1.2 million farmworkers, ran aground again last month when the compromise over immigration reform fell apart.

    Sen. Craig is among a group of farm state senators - Florida's Mel Martinez and Bill Nelson are also aboard - trying to pass AgJobs as stand-alone legislation and avoid the trappings of the greater immigration debate.

    But that isn't easy. It may not even be possible.

    Efforts to get AgJobs moving have stalled because of bickering over border security. Senate Republicans last week pushed measures that would appropriate $3 billion to add fences and patrols to the U.S.-Mexico border. More problematic, in the GOP amendment was a provision to require mandatory jail time for immigrants who overstay their visas. It also gave police, hospital workers and some public employees the authority to question people about their immigration status.

    Democrats protested. Republicans dug in. The debate got testy and gave people in the C-SPAN cafeteria something to chat about. But nothing got done.

    So Sen. Craig's potatoes are a molderin' in their graves, and Sen. Boxer's fruit is dying on the vine.

    Frustrated with the federal government's inability to solve the immigrant labor problem, some farmers are renting land in Mexico to grow their crops. You know Congress has failed the nation when American farmers start deporting themselves.

    Florida agriculture has labor problems but no crisis - yet. The winter harvest will tell the story. Without some sort of guest-worker reform, says Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association President Mike Stuart, there will be shortages of manpower. "That means leaving fruit and vegetable crops in the fields," he said. "Consequently, production will shift offshore, and we will become more dependent on foreign sources for our food supply."

    U.S. consumers, who already were trying to figure out how to protect themselves against foods from Asia and Latin America that come here with inadequate inspections and safeguards, can blame Congress for making a trip to the supermarket more expensive, and perhaps riskier.

    Comment


    • #3
      the real reason is that the food growers want to pay "peanuts" to workers...pay a better wage, see who shows up. America isn't going to go hungry because 12Mdirtbags aren't picking fruit and lettuce.

      Comment

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