A Confused Trump Would Run Farm Workers Deeper Into the Ditch

President Donald Trump had them – then he didn’t.

Speaking to an appreciative crowd in Michigan last weekend, Trump got thunderous ovations for his repeated pledge to protect U.S. jobs. Then, turning to agriculture, he declared, “We have to let people come in. They’re going to be guest workers, they’re going to work on your farms.”

The adoring audience went limp. The cheers faded amid confusion.

Touting H-2B visas (for unskilled non-farm workers) when he meant to say H-2A visas (agricultural workers), Trump muddied the U.S. labor picture and threatened to throw more Americans under the migrant-worker bus.

Though H-2A visas are up 20 percent from a year ago, ag industry lobbyists demand still more cheap farm hands. Now the administration appears ready to double down on a system that’s already crassly manipulated.

The H-2A program ostensibly requires the Department of Labor to certify that “employment of H-2A aliens will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.” Yet the ag industry can and does hire H-2A migrants because it’s cheaper than offering competitive wages to Americans.

For starters, employers reap a 7.65 percent discount because payroll taxes are waived for foreign workers. Larger savings come from the payroll itself. Unburdened by having to negotiate wages with American workers, farms use H-2A’s exclusive provisions to shackle laborers.

Not surprisingly, abuses, including inhumane working conditions, crop up perennially. Little wonder that bottom-feeding operations say they can’t find U.S. workers.

In fact, millions of unskilled and low-skilled American citizens are either unemployed or underemployed. Among rural Americans who are working, wages are flat or falling, due in part to the ever-growing influx of foreign labor sponsored by Washington and the Big Ag lobby.

By offering better pay and humane working conditions, U.S. farm operators wouldn’t have to import tens of thousands of laborers – and the consumer costs would be negligible.

If prices for produce were raised by a penny or two per pound –- and the increase went to the people who did the harvesting – wages could rise by 20 percent or more.

That virtuous cycle would make farm work great again.

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  1. avatar

    I suggest that Mr Eves chill the overheated rhetoric, read the actual article, and take note of Ms Watkins’ excellent points.

  2. avatar

    A lot of produce comes from Mexico now anyway. Avocados are mostly imported from there. As far as things like strawberries, lettuces, tomatoes, those can be grown hydroponically in containers. It takes more money to set up but produces bigger yields in the end with less labor. The growers just don’t want to pay the initial startup costs. The costs of picking is only a small fraction of what you pay in the supermarket, the rest being packing, transportation, and markups.

    There was a news story this week about the World Health Organization and air pollution. It said: “When the WHO studied data for the smaller and more deadly PM2.5 particulate matter, 14 0f the 15 most polluted cities were in India.”

    But listen to any libertarian site and they all offer India as the shining example of what we should all be. Look at how their Gross Domestic Product increases every year, they say. Never mind that it is all due to the fact that their population increases by 30 million people per year, and their GDP per capita, that is per person, is dismal, one of the worst in the world, below many “third world” countries. Polluted, vastly overcrowded, and exceedingly poor, they are the example of what not to be.

  3. avatar

    BTW, Bob, you should be applauding the employers that want to hire a LEGAL workforce. H-2 NON immigrant workers should not enter into the immigration debate because they will NevER have a pathway to citizenship. Get in, get er done and get out. You should be ashamed of yourself for casting H-2 employers in a bad light when they are trying to do what’s right, unlike shady employers that are hiring ILLEGALs. If you really want to reform immigration / employment debate, this is what needs to be done. 1. SECURE BORDER, 2. FREE UP NON immigrant, low skilled visas, 3. Figure out what to do with those here currently (I say go home get papers, and come back on documented after being vetted). #1 and #2 have to happen tangentially, or you will cause more harm. Come on, man. This is not rocket science!!! ? ?

    • avatar

      It’s not “rocket science” to figure out that giving amnesty only encourages more illegal entry. And your proposal that illegals here now “go home” and then “come back” is nothing more than amnesty. Reward bad behavior and it will continue. And it is bad behavior to come here illegally and use stolen or fraudulent SS numbers to work. As usual when certain people say the answer is “reform” they mean more amnesty and more foreign workers.

  4. avatar

    Farm work is hot and hard. Laborers, who are willing to actually do the work, are hard to find. My solution would be to use prisoners. Many of those in jail would welcome the opportunity to perform useful work, instead of being locked up all day, every day. Their wages could be pre-set, based upon the amount of the product picked. Non-citizen laborers would not be allowed. Prisoners would be paid an appropriate percentage less than non-prisoners, to cover the cost of transporting them to their jobs and for the extra paperwork involved by the prison. This would be a cooperative effort between the prisons and the farmers.

  5. avatar

    Just what this country needs. Another nitpicking writer like yourself who chooses to chip away at the very fabric of what is dreadfully wrong. Let me see now. You nitpick one letter our President was wrong on during an off the cuff speech. You are a-typical of what has gone oh so wrong in the press.

    I ask you one question? How would the great Ron Reagan have done with the kind of personal attacks Trump is experiencing? I’d be willing to bet, as skilled as he was, he might be making a lot of similar hiccups, just as President Trump is guilty of from time to time. But you took it upon yourself, to nit pick. That’s your given right..

    Question? How many times have you actually visited the San Ysidro(San Diego) border entry area? How many times have you taken the bus that takes border crossers to Otay Mesa border crossing and back to the U.S. side of San Ysidro? And how much time have you spent researching the porous borders of Arizona. I’m willing to bet not so much.

    Why don’t you get your arse down to these areas, spend some time on the San Ysidro border fence, and get familiar with the real mess. We cannot afford to continue this porous border situation, where your so-called immigrants cross over illegally to seek work.

    Where are the facts and figures in your story about how many of them never return, electing to milk the U.S. treasury for every hand-out they can grab? I love how guys like you use the words “migrant workers.” No, my friend, they are illegal and according to law they are criminals if they got into the U.S. illegally. Where are the numbers in your story about the dollars going out to what you call migrant workers?

    Have you visited Orange County in California lately? Six months ago they claimed there were 400,000 illegals in that once great county. Your migrant workers are camped out on the streets in makeshift tents. It’s a debacle. I’m willing to bet that number is low. But was there any mention of this malady in your story? Not only are these migrant workers(as you call them) draining a treasury already deep in debt, you expect the U.S. to ante up and continue business as usual. TRUMP HAS NEVER SAID HE WANTS TO DENY IMMIGRANTS THAT GO THROUGH THE LEGAL PROCESS. Where in hell was that in your story? I thought so. Your whole goal was to get your view across without reporting the whole story.

    How about sitting down and doing some real research before you spew your political stance in writing? It helps. Give both sides of an issue. You may have been under the Ron Reagan tent, but you fall short when it comes to digging for facts before you attack probably one of the greatest Presidents in history.

    Instead of taking the side of your migrant workers without any facts on the impact it has had, and continues to have, is an insult to those of us who investigate and report. Like President Trump has said from day one, if your migrant worker wants to go through the process legally, they are welcome. But I guess you would rather pick out one letter in a speech President Trump gave, to justify your stance on the criminal workers who have flooded my once great state of California.

    Get off you duff. Go to San Ysidro and Otay Mesa border areas. Walk along the fence. Check out the many sophisticated tunnels dug by the cartels. Then go to McCain’s state borders, which are probably even worse. Know what in the hell you are writing about.\

    We cannot afford this same venue where your migrant workers(criminals) get across the U.S. border and become reliant on a treasury that is in free-fall. Your reference to the cost of produce going up is laughable. How about the debt our country continues to rack up. Oh yeah, I guess we just keep what has been going on going and take care of your so-called migrant workers. Get real.

    • avatar
      Patricia Watkins on

      Not sure why you are writing such an extreme rant regarding the writer of this article; but my stance is that we should bring in legal foreign workers into the agricultural industry. Legal workers who do their job and are treated humanely under the law. Workers who then go home when their Visa’s expire or re-apply. And employers need to be held responsible for those foreign workers either re-applying or sending them back to their country of origin. I don’t care that they get paid less than American workers because it is a truth that most Americans don’t want to do that kind of physical work. Near where I live, there is a berry farm that can’t get enough workers to apply or to stay on the job; and they raised their wages to about $15 for any legal takers. The problem is with those in agriculture who have no scruples about hiring illegals on the cheap and often treat them badly. In saying that I approve of more legal foreign workers, I think America also has to change the fact that these workers can pop out babies while they are here and those anchor babies become U.S. citizens. Unfortunately, anchor babies are an incentive to many illegals. I read a news story about a very pregnant illegal migrant who was desperate to get over our border before the baby was born. They know the perks of having an American anchor baby. It is like a foot in the door. And that baby is paid for by Americans. I think that the issue becomes huge when tech is able to bring in thousands of tech workers from countries like India instead of working with American citizens to get that same education to do those jobs. High paying tech jobs in America should be for Americans; and the government and big business need to work together to do what it takes to give Americans the education, skill, experience, and internships to get those jobs. I do agree with this article about migrants taking up low paying jobs such as in the service industry. I see some Mexican restaurants here who hire predominately Hispanic employees. Some are family members brought in on work Visa’s. In that instance, I don’t think that is right, but one of the reasons they do it is because these workers are bilingual. Or they learn English quickly in order to stay in the U.S.

    • avatar

      No one believes you. Everyone knows the reality of the situation. Maybe 50 years ago this article could have slightly been relevant. Bye. Don’t throw trump under the bus! If he doesn’t release all of the H-2B visas appropriated in 2018 budget bill and very soon, like NOW, I know a butt load of people that won’t vote for him in the 2020 election. Starting with me! ??????

    • avatar

      Thank you, Mr. Eves, for attempting to bring the author into the 21st century. Unfortunately, some people, at the end of their career, are afraid to change their stance even if they know they are dead wrong.

  6. avatar

    In LA RAZA-OCCUPIED MEXIFORNIA one-third of all “cheap” labor farm workers end up on welfare. The amount increases for every anchor baby the make.