Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Sunday 03/30/14

In Search of Immigration Reform in the House

Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal had articles this weekend lamenting the lack of action in the House of Representatives on immigration reform.

The NYT piece focused on California farmers that are "increasingly fed up" with the inability to get a steady workforce for their crops. The article suggests at least some California farmers are becoming angry at Republicans over the issue.

"The tension is so high that the powerful Western Growers Association ... says many of its members may withhold contribution from Republicans in congressional races because of the party's stance against a comprehensive immigration overhaul."

The op-ed in the Wall Street Journal explains why Republican lawmakers can shrug their shoulders at some lost campaign funds from farmers. Ralph Reed of the Faith & Freedom Coalition and Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention, write that Republicans seem confident about the midterm elections in the fall and don't trust the president so they are ignoring immigration reform. Reed and Moore explain that's a mistake. They call for reform measures, but no blanket amnesty or guarantee of citizenship for illegal immigrants. "Those who desire citizenship should take their place behind those who have begun that process. There should be no special pathway for those who entered the country illegally. Criminals need to be deported."

Reed and Moore also reflect a different mindset than the California farmer. The pair advocates for the U.S. to make it easier to bring in temporary skilled workers or an educated workforce, noting Canada brings in about 120,000 permanent and temporary workers under such as program, nearly twice the U.S. number.

Farmers who rely heavily on labor need just that though -- labor. They need people willing to break a sweat on a physically demanding job. A lot of farmers have had these workers on their farms but are now losing them because of tighter controls by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

“There are people who have been employed for many years, if not decades, and are now turning to their employers saying, ‘Look, I am undocumented,’ ” said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., in the NYT piece. “These are not just seasonal workers. These are people who have almost become part of the same family. It’s a problem that has grown so big and so multigenerational, we can no longer ignore it.”

Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Western Growers, said "there is going to be a very loud hue and cry from us in agriculture" if nothing is done.

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/…

Wall Street Journal: http://dld.bz/…

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

Posted at 8:02PM CDT 03/30/14 by Chris Clayton
Comments (3)
A great place to start with would be the elimination of government schemes that grant the most profitable farms an overwhelming financial competitive edge in a highly competitive business. These schemes deny smaller farms from competing or becoming established. For many decades smaller farmers provided a highly skilled source of labor for many other farmers small and large with their sons and daughters. Government has been so busy helping out those who do not need any help that most smaller farmers have no chance of competing in agriculture. The overwhelming financial bulletproofing and turbocharging of the most profitable farm businesses is what I am talking about. If government is going to hand out business financial enhancements all farmers are equally deserving of comparably valued financial enhancements. At this point it is obvious that our agricultural industry is highly vulnerable to foreign sources of labor. It is also highly obvious that the massive financial benefits being awarded those who choose not to work has eliminated this source of labor for American farmers. To incentive-ice these people to work, the only realistic option is cutting these benefits.
Posted by T Kuster at 6:47AM CDT 03/31/14
I don't follow your logic - can you be more specific? What government schemes provide more financial support to larger farmers than smaller ones? Don't all size farmers get the same direct payments (in the past) per acre, the same crop insurance subsidy levels, etc? FSA lending programs are generally only for smaller size farms, and program limits only affect larger farmers, so it would seem support might be slanted more toward smaller farmers. I'm not aware of any kind of government financial support that goes to larger farmers but not to smaller ones. What overwhelming financial bulletproofing are you referring to? I agree with the last part - who's going to milk cows at 4:00AM for $15/hour when they can eat and have a place to live doing nothing?
Posted by Gary Hoots at 8:20AM CDT 03/31/14
In arriving at the fair market value of government benefits per farmer there are least 2 parts to the equation. One is benefits per acre and the other is number of acres of benefits per farmer. In arriving at the amount of government profit guaranteed per farmer the same 2 factors obviously apply. Anyone with integrity can agree that government has been providing massive profit guarantees to some farmers and that in arriving at the total value of the profit guaranteed per farmer to look at only at the value of the profit guaranteed for one acre would be a dishonest approach. Most everyone agrees that federal crop insurance in most cases covers all or very close to all land costs. Many farmers have no appreciable land costs other than real estate taxes. Government schemes that guarantee and cover land costs are obviously a profit guarantee for these individuals. In arriving at the total amount of crop insurance premium subsidy per farmer obviously there are also at least 2 factors - the amount of crop insurance premium per acre and the amount of acres each farmer receives payment for. I am assuming by now you can determine the total value of past direct payments per farmer.
Posted by T Kuster at 9:48AM CDT 03/31/14
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