Over the past 20 years, the USA has lost Global and Domestic Agricultural Market Share to Foreign Competitors. Even though America has some of the richest farming lands in the world, America cannot staff sufficient number of Agjobs to harvest the crops grown in the USA. So instead, these agricultural markets and jobs are outsourced overseas.
The insufficient number of workers willing to perform AgJobs in America is continuing to dwindle. This is not an economic issue. American Workers simply DO NOT WANT to perform these jobs. The work is too hard. The wages too low.
Today, there are sufficient Latino Workers willing to immigrate, come as Guest Workers willing to do these jobs, the jobs they have performed for decades. But they WON'T COME! Why? Because of the Hate-Filled Era created by the AM Shock-Jocks like Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, Hannity and Limbaugh.
Now, more than ever, it is important that we discuss and pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform in our Country. We should fix our broken processes, fix the backlog in the immigration courts, establish a path for legalization for those here felonious free, and most of all, end the era of Hate Crimes against Latinos and allow a Guest Worker program that works.
Guest Voz: Dick Joyce - owner - Sherwood -based Joyce Farms:
Dick Joyce's father started the family farm in 1910 and over the years sold everything from grain to dairy products, cattle and hazelnuts. During harvest, Joyce says, neighboring farmers would go from farm to farm with a community threshing machine to cut the grain.
When the Joyce farm grew to include cherry orchards, during harvest time the family bused in pickers from Portland's West Burnside Street, Joyce says. Most were "Anglos," he says, and a few were African Americans.
"Some people termed them as 'winos,' others as 'fruit tramps,'" Joyce says. "These guys would travel and follow the crops."
At other orchard, nursery and berry operations, women and children worked during summers to pick crops, Joyce says. When laws restricted children's work in agriculture, "the children didn't get training, they didn't get the incentive to work," he says.
And more Oregonians left the rural areas for city life, Joyce says. "Over time, as their economic situation improved, people were not interested in farm work."
In the 1980s, the state saw a rapid influx of Mexicans, who filled the hole in the labor market, Joyce says. "Nobody was displaced as a result of their coming."
Joyce, who has sold most of his land, now runs a 40-acre fruit tree nursery and a maintenance business. He employs about 20 permanent workers -- all Latinos. Many have worked for him for more than two decades, he says, and he now employs their children.
"Culturally, white Americans have moved away from agriculture, and it isn't a matter of money at all," Joyce says. "There's no amount of money that you can lay on the table to make them work."
Joyce hopes to see a change in immigration law that would tighten borders and allow farmworkers to gain legal status.
Monty Smith, former farmworker, Scio
Monty Smith has done farm work since he was 12. He has worked on horse ranches, dairy farms, berry farms, plus cattle, sheep and goat farms. His family, originally from Oklahoma, followed crops from state to state.
"I love farming; sometimes it's very rewarding," he says, "though it could be a real pain."
Smith, 38, says most of his family and neighbors have dropped out of agriculture. He lives in rural Linn County south of Salem, but none of his friends do farm work.
"Farming is just something the American people don't do anymore," he says.
Most of the time, Smith has worked with Latinos and was "the only white guy working." White, non-Latino Americans shy away from agriculture, he says, because of low pay.
"It seems to me like a lot of Oregon workers are looking for higher-pay jobs -- $11 to $12 an hour -- not minimum wage," Smith says. "It takes a lot for a person to raise their family, and farms don't pay that."
Farm work can mean eight- to 18-hour days, toiling in the scorching sun or cold rain, relocating and having little family time. And many farmers don't pay overtime.
Smith was a farmworker, he says, because he didn't have family obligations. (He separated from his wife eight years ago, and his two children live in Missouri.) But last spring he got a job as a heavy-equipment operator with Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, patching potholes and fixing water pipes. He doesn't plan to return to farm work.
Stable farm labor seems elusive in global economy