Thursday, April 11, 2013


One of the balances needed to be achieved in the coming immigration reform legislation deals with agricultural workers, or, farm workers.

There are two main challenges:

1.     Agricultural growers need employees who are experienced in the specific tasks at hand.  It is of no value to bring in thousands of temporary workers who have no skills in working on farms and ranches.  Untrained workers can not only ruin the harvest, but they can do great damage to fruit trees, certain types of plants--such as strawberries--by how they move around a field, and know how to pick the ripe fruit.

     Growers and farm worker labor organizations need to find ways to legalize the trained farm workers who are already here, and who have the experience to do the best job.  This option benefits everyone, including the consumer.

2.     Farm worker salaries and benefits are already woefully inadequate, and it is feared that importing thousands of unskilled workers for our ranches and farms will depress all farm worker salaries and benefits.  We saw that disastrous result back in the 1960s with the Bracero Program.  All farm workers suffered as lower wages and few benefits became the norm.

All of agriculture will benefit with a stable, trained, and experienced workforce.  Not with thousands of temporary workers.  But to retain these trained and experienced farm workers demands that wages, working conditions, and benefits increase over their present status.

Farm workers who are properly compensated for their experience and whose families can live in security with health insurance, workers compensation, and retirement benefits are more apt to remain working in agriculture.

When legislation is introduced into the Senate soon, we all must be alert to how farm workers, the backbone of our food supply, are treated.  Not only do undocumented farm workers need to be brought out of the shadows, but their overall remuneration and well-being must be protected as well.