Wednesday, May 28, 2008

American farmers, don't look back!

It is happening, just a Michael Chertoff predicted a year ago. Remember when he was lobbying the Senate last June for comprehensive immigration reform? He told NPR, “I’ll give you a very vivid picture of what will happen if we don’t have a bill. Crops will rot in the field. Fruit will not be picked. Some of those farmers will finally decide they want to move their farms South of the border or North of the border into Canada so they can get the workers. I don’t see any outcome in the status quo that is a good outcome.”

And Secretary Chertoff was right. Just today I saw a news item from the AP that said, “American companies now farm more than 45,000 acres of land in three Mexican states, employing about 11,000 people, a 2007 survey by the U.S. farm group Western Growers shows.”

Egad, 45,000 acres! Just for kicks I looked it up. The USDA says that in 2002 (the last year available) the United States had 434,160,000 acres of cropland which represents 46% of all farmland.

So it isn’t likely that Mexico will be the breadbasket of the United States any time soon, especially when you consider this statement made by Steve Scaroni, owner of VegPacker of California that runs an operation in Guanajuato, Mexico. Steve told the AP, “The only thing that's cheaper down here is diesel fuel and the labor per day. My productivity is down 40 percent” from U.S. levels.

And let’s not forget the need to enforce food-safety standards!

Maybe if there was a dime to be made by moving farms south, the MBAs would have already done it.

For you compassionate conservatives out there, you must also consider the impact we are having with the locals when we move our farming operations down there.

Here’s what they are saying: “Not everyone in Mexico has welcomed U.S. companies. Mexican farmers complain that they have driven up land rental prices. Many local growers worry they can't compete against big, foreign firms, said Felipe Sanchez, president of a farmers group in Guanajuato state.
“How can a ranch that farms 70 acres compete with a company that came to farm 10,000 acres?” Sanchez said. “We'll become laborers on our own ranches.”
Farm workers at U.S. companies in Mexico make two or three times Mexico's minimum wage of $4.80 a day.”

(Source: Some U.S. farms outsourced to Mexico by Jessica Bernstein-Wax, ASSOCIATED PRESS May 26, 2008)

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