Ag Pleads with Trump for More Cheap Labor, Claims the President Recognizes ‘the System is Broken’

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

May 2, 2017

Just as it does every spring, the agriculture industry descended on Washington, D.C. with its annual lament: We need more cheap labor! Unless we get it, produce prices will soar – assuming the crops don’t rot in the fields before they reach the supermarket!

Ag industry wants to perpetuate cheap labor abuses.

This year, at President Donald Trump’s direction through his executive order, the White House created a “Farmer’s Roundtable” that will, among other goals, discuss “labor issues,” code words for more ag visas.

Grower Maureen Torrey participated in the roundtable discussion with President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Torrey attributed comments to Present Trump that sounded like a page out of Senator Dianne Feinstein’s we-need-more-guest-workers’ playbook.

According to Torrey, President Trump understands that illegal alien farm workers are otherwise law abiding, productive and shouldn’t be afraid of possible removal. Torrey further said that President Trump acknowledged that the “H-2A is broken and needs fixing,” that “there needs to be a year-round solution to agriculture’s labor needs,” and that he recognizes “the need for a skilled ag worker program.” Torrey managed to roll all the fear-stoking misinformation about ag, its bogus labor shortage, and the inanity that the immigration system is broken into one paragraph.

It’s impossible to know whether Torrey is correctly paraphrasing President Trump, whether he was just being polite or whether he really thinks more H-2A visas are a good idea. President Trump is, after all, the guy who reneged on his campaign promise, made multiple times, to end on Day 1 deferred action for childhood arrivals. Early in President Trump’s administration, anything seems possible.

While we can’t be certain about what President Trump thinks, we can be sure that Torrey and her colleagues are purposely wrong about their insistence that ag needs more cheap labor, and that without it healthy crops may vanish from the local supermarket.

Predictions made in 2016 about the certainty of rotting crops without more imported farm labor turned out to be, just as they have been in past years, wildly off the mark. Fresh fruit and vegetables were abundant, and their prices were, respectively, 0.5 percent and 4.1 percent lower when compared to the previous year.
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