The odd affinity that so-called political “progressives” in this country have for back-breaking labor–always on the part of others, usually the brown-skinned–is on display again this season. They are joining with the agribusiness lobby and farm-state politicians in a chorus calling for the annual influx of seasonal agricultural labor.
This year, like every year, the nation’s farmers are set to welcome at least 250,000 farm laborers, mostly from Mexico and Central America, to their fields and orchards to harvest crops and fruit, under the auspices of the–uncapped–H-2A visa program.
As President Trump said on April 1:
We want the farmers to be able to get people that have been working those farms for years, or we’re not going to have farms. So they’re going to come in. And they’re going to be given a certain pass and we’re going to check them very, very closely — especially over the next month, because remember after a month or so once this passes, we’re not going to have to be, hopefully, worried too much about the virus … I’ve given a commitment that they’re going to continue to come or we’re not going to have any farmers.
But is that necessarily true, especially in the long run? The agricultural industry, as much as manufacturing, is demonstrably adaptable to mechanization. Lettuce, broccoli, strawberries, artichokes, brussels sprouts, asparagus and virtually all other crops and berries and fruits can be harvested, more quickly, efficiently, hygienically, and with much less pain and stress with the right kind of equipment. But there must be an incentive and government assistance.
Mechanization requires money, and many farmers, often operating close to the margin economically, are reluctant to take the financial risk when the tried-and-true migrant option remains available. As Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies noted yesterday at Breitbart News:
What both the H-2A [guest worker program] and the easy access to illegals do is reduce the incentive for farms to switch over to these higher productivity, less labor-intensive methods of harvesting. It is perfectly rational not to spend $800,000 on a [harvesting] machine if you’ve got access to all of this cheap labor, whether it is [H-2A] visa workers or illegal workers.
Oddly, the farmers find willing allies among the left in their demand for imported manual laborers. Again Krikorian, speaking of the progressives who fancy such laborers:
They tell themselves, they try to delude themselves … they really believe that is just a [generational] phase and the [migrants’] children will all move into the middle class. The other reason is their reflexive support for open borders and immigration in principle – [and] if they were to criticize corporate exploitation of immigrants, that would suggest that maybe mass immigration has downsides, and that is something the modern progressive can’t accept. It is immigration uber alles.
Like it or not, contemporary events like the Wuhan virus and the ongoing course of history demand that something different be done. America can no longer afford to rely upon the seasonal back-breaking labor of destitute foreign migrants. Our farms and our country would be healthier, more prosperous places if our government would offer incentives to mechanize and dispense with the annual inundation of foreign migrants who may or may not be checked “very, very closely” for infection, the President’s promising notwithstanding.
Perhaps a more modern approach to farming, always our most important industry, may result ultimately from the crisis.
For more, see Breitbart News.
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