>Today, I read that 42% of the agricultural laborers in California between
>1995 and 1997 were illegal aliens.
>I am wondering if anyone can comment on what sort of structural changes
>would be necessary for California to meet its agricultural
>labor needs using legal laborers ?
California agriculture relies on migrant, illegal workers. There is no
question about meeting the labor requirement with "legal" labor--big ag is
dependent upon inexpensive labor provided by the migrant work force. This is
why California's recent referendum denying health care to illegal aliens
struck me as so incredibly hypocritical: the California economy benefits
greatly from this labor pool yet simultaneously the public wants to deny the
workers even emergency medical treatment and to throw their children out of
A relative of mine sells seed in the delta region of the San Joaquin valley.
He told me that when INS agents are spotted by one farmer, they call the
others in the neighborhood so that the illegals can be hidden before INS
To whom would it be desirable that the California ag labor pool be legal?
One further observation: at a workshop on sugarbeet production here in
Nebraska a year ago, one of the stated goals of the researchers was to
eradicate the need for manual labor. How do they do this? By substituting
chemicals. Who does this affect? Though the subtext of this agenda could
never be addressed at a production meeting, this "goal" is code for "Let's
get rid of the migrant workers." I'm not so sure researchers are qualified
to make this decision.
It is a good time of year to think about the people behind the food that we
eat, not only the farmers and other landowners, but the thousands of people
who take large risks to travel to the U.S. illegally to work hard at the
jobs that most Americans aren't willing to take.
The "problem" of migrant labor is a complex one and in my view the solution
isn't simply to substitute legal for illegal laborers.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln alternative crops research technician
Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society western organizer
High Plains Ag Lab
3257 Rd. 109
Sidney, NE 69162
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