Monday, May 4, 2009

Feinstein's "fuzzy" farm figures

At the hearing on immigration reform last week, Senator Dianne Feinstein graced us all with her presence just long enough to make a speech about the dire need for immigration reform to relieve the poor farmers who need cheap labor.

She spoke of the anecdotal stories from farmers in California and elsewhere who either must switch to crops pickable by machine or go out of business altogether because they can’t find workers at any price who will do the “back-breaking work” of picking crops.

She should have stopped there. But she didn’t.

Instead she told the hearing that 1,560,000 acres worth of farmland was left fallow in 2007-2008. (Wow, I thought. That’s a lot of land.)

She should have stopped there as well. But she didn’t.

She went on to say that 84,155 of those lost acres went to Mexico.

If only she had stuck to the pity stories and NOT quoted all those figures.

We might have even pitied her tale that I-5 in California had to be closed because of dust storms, conjuring up Oklahoma in the depression days. But she had to quote acreage.

Now, let’s take a closer look at Feinstein’s figures. The 1.56 million acres represents under 1.7% of all farmland in the United States. Total farmland in the USA currently stands at 922,095,840 acres.

And 84,155 acres selling out to Mexico represents a measly 0.000091 % of all farmland in the United States.

And her entire premise rings hollow given her voting record on CAFTA and other South American trade agreements that undercut California’s ability to be profitable while growing crops for the domestic market.

Not to mention her scathing critique of guest worker programs and the impact of illegal aleins in 2004 as reported here:

Yet no one challenged her speech last Friday. No one even laughed.

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