Monday, April 21, 2008

Farm workers should be eligible H-1B visa program

Farm workers should be as eligible as Microsoft's programmers for the H-1B visa program, a foreign guest worker program for skilled workers.

The whole immigrant worker issue directly affects food and food prices. Mexican and all other farm laborers are spoken about with distain. From everything I know about it, FARMING IS NOT AN UNSKILLED JOB. Farmers and farm workers are very skilled and they do not get the respect they deserve. An example of how desperate the situation is, last year fruit in Washington State rotted on and under the trees because there were no pickers. I have spoken with other farmers who say they will be put out of business by the lack of skilled farm labor.

These people from Mexico are not wanted because their labor is cheap (perhaps working against myself, it should not be cheap), but because they are skilled farmers. They know a weed from a cultivated plant. They can pick for eight or more hours a day, and know how to pick tons of fruit and vegetables. Physically, I could not do that when I was young. Most Americans cannot do that today. If there are scads of unemployed American farmers displaced by these foreign workers, I have not read one story about them. No one has contacted me.

To reiterate: Farming is skilled labor. Farming is not something that you can walk out into a field and know how to do. It takes years of experience.

Your food costs will continue to rise sharply because of the actions of a few reactionaries who think that their lot in life will be better if they keep immigrants out.

Below I have linked us to a great article in today's Seattle Times about the increasing cost of food. I am sure that the news that food costs more comes as no surprise to you. The crop failures have just begun to be reported for his year. The snow, hail, sleet, and generally cold temperatures we have been having this weekend may indicated problems here, too. On another alarming note, gas was $114 a barrel on April 18, and I read today that I should be OK with this because oil company profits have never been higher. Say Wa?

Cold weather or not, we are going to be more and more dependent on local food. This story is well worth reading.

Why you're paying more at the grocery store

6 comments:

Scusteister said...

Marilyn,

This is not the first time I have heard about the farmworker argument for immigrant labor. Well told. My guru farmer tells me kids (citizen-type kids) today do not want to do farm work. When I was a kid, farmwork was the only work available. I was quite young when I first started (8), but I was grateful for the work. I'm sure the pay was abysmal, but I certainly learned the work ethic (that old annoying phrase). I would have happily done farm work when I entered my teen years if we hadn't moved from farm country to a small city. It's sad to think the Americans don't want to do the work, but they also don't want to let immigrants in to do the labor. I suspect the issue is not one of taking away American jobs (industry moved out long ago anyway), but plain old fashioned racism.

Good luck with your csa.

Scusteister Schwamp

Scusteister said...

Marilyn,

This is not the first time I have heard the farmworker argument for immigrant labor. Well told. My guru farmer tells me kids (citizen-type kids) today do not want to do farm work. When I was a kid, farmwork was the only work available. I was quite young when I first started (8), but I was grateful for the work. I'm sure the pay was abysmal, but I certainly learned the work ethic (that old annoying phrase). I would have happily done farm work when I entered my teen years if we hadn't moved from farm country to a small city. It's sad to think the Americans don't want to do the work, but they also don't want to let immigrants in to do the labor. I suspect the issue is not one of taking away American jobs (industry moved out long ago anyway), but plain old fashioned racism.

Good luck with your csa.

Scusteister Schwamp

mjholt said...

I think that you are on to something with learning to work young. That you started working at 8 years old, which is now forbidden, even in a limited setting, and is unfortunate for our country. People learn best when they learn young, including work ethic. I also suspect that kids don't get teased about working at McDonald's like they get teased about working on a farm. Most farms pay more than McDonald's.

You are on to some thing that it is racist, and may probably very class driven, too.

Thank you for coming by and commenting.

Scusteister said...

I have mixed feelings about starting to work young. I have a deeply ingrained work ethic because at 8 I earned my first real money. I think it was 4 dollars for a day's work or something. It was a really huge amount for me. But I'm wondering now if I don't preoccupy with money too much because so much of my life has revolved around earning it. I make decisions for my life based on my fear of being unemployed. Things don't have value unless money is attached. That sort of thing. But then, isn't that how we all are? Just being born now will make you that way. We have no other culture besides the one of earning and spending money to compare it to. Meanwhile I'm a very independent person because I've never not worked so there is that.

Yeah, farm work is so much more creative than fast food ever was. At least for me. It is more taxing on the body, though, and that's one reason why it's maligned. But also because it involves dirt. One mustn't get one's hands dirty. It's a sign of privilege to not get your hands dirty. Meantime, a shower never felt so good as after a hard day's work in the muck and goo. When I only do office work, I don't even bother showering for days at a time. What's the point? I'm not doing anything all day. My fingers are the only thing getting excercise and they're not all that stinky.

My personal opinion is that the real trouble with today's society, despite what the talk show hosts, psychologists, politicians, clergymen, and other such experts are telling us, is that no one is getting dirty anymore. We continue to sterilize ourselves daily when we're not even working up a sweat let alone putting our feet and hands in the soil. What people really need is good old-fashioned tilling of the earth. But they prefer to stay clean and immerse themselves in pornography and reality tv.

Hang in there, the asparagus is now officially up.

Scusteister Schwamp

P.S. Sorry I doubled up on my comment last time.

mjholt said...

no one is getting dirty anymore

So true.

To protect ourselves (I am so sorry we need to do this) we have a statement that our vegetables are not table ready, and they need to be washed. I have already told so many people that cold water is the best wash, no all those things they sell in the store, and certainly not soap. Dirt and dirty are not the same.

Re starting work at 8 years old:

I know people who are 20 somethings (and older) who started working at 20 something, and who are obsessed with making money, but have almost no skills worthy of payment. Some literally scream at employers that they deserve more money -- they get fired. I don't really know what my point is, but I am not sure that any obsession you have with earning a living comes from the early experience. However, I suspect that you have job skills, some of which you learned early. I worked along side my mother when she gardened when I was little, I drove tractors from the time I was 9 years old, and I always was paid by my parents but not allowed to work full-time until I graduated from college. I developed into a "self-starter," but on days like to day, I think I need a new bushing.

scusteister said...

I think it's working on the land that helps people develop into self-starters. I don't think anyone has realized how handicapped our children are because they never learn any skills that involve their hands. We make sure they are educated with book learning only. That's only half an education. Where's the motivation to do something for yourself? Our educational system trains us to work in a corporate environment and have the corporation see to all of our needs. It doesn't help when starting a small business is a real challenge, but we're not encouraged to do that in the first place. The idea for us is to get a job in a company. Get some benefits and a retirement. That's the key to the good life. All it does, though, is hold us back from trying things on our own.

Keep up the good work!