Who knew fieldwork was hard?

06/24/2011 08:48:00 AM
Amelia Freidline

Chris Koger, Food for ThoughtIt’d be funny if it weren’t true.

Despite the constant stream of messages, whether on blogs, reader comments on The Packer’s news stories, in right-wing newsletters and e-mails I see on a daily basis, I just can’t find truth in the perception that “greedy” growers take advantage of illegal immigrants.

But even more so, I’m confused by the belief that thousands of jobs on farms and in packinghouses are being stolen from hard-working Americans.

A year ago, the United Farm Workers union, fed up by congressional inaction on immigration reforms, started the Take Our Jobs initiative.

The union implored U.S. citizens to visit employment stations across the country, with a simple goal of replacing illegal immigrants in agriculture.

TV’s Stephen Colbert took advantage of the situation, taking a job harvesting corn.

Overall, Take Our Jobs was a flop in reality, but successful in proving the union’s point: Immigration reform or not, someone has to take up the yoke of hard work.

Leaders in Georgia are somehow just now discovering this, several months after passing a bill not unlike Arizona’s tough immigration stance.

Gov. Nathan Deal, responding to a drop in labor as farmworkers left the state, floated a plan in mid-June to get more legal workers in the fields — use people on probation.

A crew of probationers recently started working on a farm owned by Dick Minor, Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers president, picking cucumbers, according to an Associated Press story.

You can see where this is going.

“Those guys out here weren’t out there 30 minutes and they got the bucket and just threw them in the air and say, ‘Bonk this. I ain’t with this. I can’t do this,’” Jermond Powell, a 33-year-old probationer, told the AP.

“They just left, took off across the field walking.”

Overall, the new laborers were outpaced significantly by the Mexicans and Guatemalans who normally work on Minor’s farm, according to the AP, meaning they are paid far less.

As an extreme example, according to the AP, the fastest immigrant worker packed 200 buckets of cucumbers by lunch (earning $20 an hour); some probationers filled about 20 buckets a day.

To have a meaningful discussion on immigration reform, there needs to be an honest look at the consequences of what immigration hardliners propose.

Jingoistic sound bites might go a long way to securing re-election, but messing with policies that effect food costs is a serious matter.


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Rob Hinnant    
Georgia  |  June, 27, 2011 at 01:04 PM

It is true, field work is hard and not many of our US citizens are willing to put in the effort. However, it is also true that the migrant workers are realizing the other opportunities they have available to them in the US and the numbers in the fields are reducing every year. I feel if the government wants to help reform immigration it should also help the growers to prepare for mechanization through grants and low percent financing. It is hard for a grower to implement the changes from going from hand to mechanical in one year due to the high cost of equipment, and changes needed to their operations to make it happen. Mechanizing does not happen overnight and can be overwhelming to any operation.

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