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Elba farmer discusses shortage of farm labor for seasonal work

Elba's Maureen Torrey is featured in a story by McClatchy News Service on the shortage of farm labor:

With the peak harvest season at hand, Torrey’s concerns about a labor shortage are growing. A crackdown on illegal immigration, more job opportunities in Mexico and rising fees charged by smugglers are reducing the number of workers who cross the U.S. border illegally each year to help make up more than 60 percent of U.S. farmworkers.

The American Farm Bureau Federation projects $5 billion to $9 billion in annual produce-industry losses because of the labor shortages, which have become commonplace for farmers such as Torrey, who said there were 10 applicants for every job five years ago.

“In the last year that wasn’t the case,” she said. “We hired anybody that showed up for field work. It’ll be interesting to see how many people we have knocking on the door this year.”

Doug Yeomans
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If Mexican workers are so vital to local farmers, why haven't they banded together in order to bring those workers to their farms in a legal manner? They could bring them here on work visas and those workers could pay taxes and not have to worry about being deported..problem solved.

Mark Brudz
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Actually Doug they have tried, several Farm groups have been pushing for legislation that allows them too as well as some Restuarant groups as well. Solving that problem isn't as simple as it looks although it should be.

Mark Brudz
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Here is a linl to a google search 'Maureen Marshal and immigration' you will see several articles about her fight for reform with the fed.

https://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&aq=f&oq=Maureen+Marshal...

Doug Yeomans
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Farmers should carry a lot of clout. Imagine if they decided to shut down their farms for a year. They'd go bankrupt but the country would also starve. Flexing muscles gets them noticed.

I remember seeing migrant worker camps in Seneca and Wayne counties as a kid so none of this is a new issue. Not to change the subject, but to make a point, If the federal gov can't help farmers because of bureaucratic feet dragging, why is everyone so hell bent on Obamacare? This is a perfect example of what will happen when they're in charge of legislating "what's good for you."

Mark Brudz
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They should carry alot of clout, but unfortunately most Urban dwellers do not even know where thier food comes from and hopw relatively inexpensiver it is compared to the rest of the world

Jason Crater
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The headline of this article should read, "Local Farmer Happy to Hire Illegal Immigrants to Harvest Crops"

John Roach
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Howrd,
Great link.

Doug Yeomans
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Jason, I think it actually hints at "Farmers happy to hire ANYONE that will apply at this point." I wonder if anyone has ever watched field workers laboring. It's ass busting work, especially in the 90F sunshine.

Jason Crater
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I don't doubt it Doug. I was mostly surprised at this farmer's willingness to tell the media that he hires illegals.

Doug Yeomans
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Well, It's just not a secret in this area that farmers hire illegals. The video link that Howard posted was enlightening. All of the apple orchards in Seneca and Wayne counties have historically used migrant workers. Some were black laborers but a lot of them were illegal Mexicans and from other central American countries.

If farmers can't get Americans to do the work and if our own government ignores their request to legitimize Mexican workers with work visas, what are farmers supposed to do? Even if farmers doubled the hourly wages, I doubt that more than a handful of Americans would do the job or COULD even the job that the Mexicans do.

As the video pointed out, if they come here legally, they're eligible for all of our social programs. If they come here illegally, they're entitled to nothing but they also probably pay no taxes. Prior to 1914, this was not a welfare country. Charity was handled by the church, not the government. People coming to this country HAD to work if they wanted to survive. It was a totally different world.

Jason Crater
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Again, I'm not pointing out that I'm surprised that they hire illegal immigrants. I'm surprised that the farmer is willing to publicly state this fact.

Mark Brudz
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Jason, it really isn't surprising at all, Maureen has been a staunch advocate for immigration reform, specifically, a legal means for stream lined agricultural guest worker programs for years.

Billie Owens
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I will go out on a very teensy-weensy limb and say that workers south of the U.S. border -- be they from Mexico or Guatemala or El Salvador -- work their butts off and will kick yours any day of the week in a row by row 8-hour shift of picking crops.

Whether they are up on steep hillsides in Escondido plucking avocados in 100-degree heat, or in humid, hot weather here picking berries or what have you -- they have a nearly diabolical work ethic that you have to see to believe.

There will ALWAYS be work for people who are willing and able to work like that. And I think their labor should be valued, treated as valuable. Putting braceros to work is a two-way street. We benefit, they should benefit also -- with wages, flexible visas, and basic accommodations for starters.

Jason Crater
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I'm for immigration reform. All I'm saying is if I was doing something illegal, I wouldn't talk about it in an interview with the media.

Please don't infer anything additional from my posts.

Billie Owens
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Jason, my post was without regard to your post and I understand what you are saying. I just wanted to underscore what many, yourself included, may already know -- the braceros are among the hard-working people on the planet.

C. M. Barons
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This is one issue that reveals the gap between politics and reality. The emotive sound-bite leads us to believe that outsiders are displacing us from jobs. The reality is- not only don't we want the field jobs, crops will rot in the field if non-resident labor doesn't intercede. The gap between reality and horseshit is going to cost billions in lost crops both to farmers and consumers. Meanwhile a handful of southern politicians are amusing themselves, engaged in a pissing-contest with the federal government. Fifty years ago racists from Mississippi and Alabama were terrorizing little black girls; now they're tormenting niñitas.

http://www.splcenter.org/what-we-do/immigrant-justice

Jeff Allen
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Contrary to popular belief, local farms can make it using 0 non-resident labor. It is a fact that it is happening right here in our backyard. Given the opportunity, our teenagers WILL work on farms.

Kyle Couchman
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LOL Jeff yeah riiiight. I give credit to the teens that will do this but even in my day getting enough teens to harvest and bale hay was next to impossible. There are too many jobs to fill and the jobs arent restricted to June thru August.

C. M. Barons
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...Maybe if you could pick cucumbers and text at the same time!

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