Michael Rubinkam of the Associated Press offers yet another in the long line of "crops rotting in the fields" articles, which are propaganda designed to support an immigration amnesty and/or "guest" worker program. In the current case (link), it concerns the Keith Eckel, owner of Fred W. Eckel Sons Farms Inc. who says he's going to switch from tomatoes to mechanically-harvested corn because he can't find workers. For those not in the loop, Eckel is the top dog in the Pennsylvania fresh-to-market tomato industry.
Other than a few details, it's the same as the other articles and the replies are the same: offer more money and make sure you're doing business within the laws, try to change the laws, mechanize, or go out of business. It also includes this charming comment from Eckel which seems almost like a throwback to a different century or a different country:
"A lot of people think with immigration that we're talking about immigrants taking jobs from others. Let me tell you, there is no local labor that is going to go out and harvest those tomatoes in 90-degree temperatures except our immigrant labor... They come here to do a job that no one else will do in this country."
Carl Shaffer, president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau joined him at the press conference; Eckel isn't a participant in the H-2A program, since he finds it "too cumbersome".
UPDATE: When Keith Eckel speaks, cheap labor supporters across the nation listen!
One of the reasons might be this. Last month George Bush tabbed him for the U.S. Agency for International Development's Board for International Food and Agricultural Development. (The seven-member board advises the on agricultural priorities and issues. USAID is an independent federal government agency that provides economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide.) There are over 100 stories about his issues on Google news, yet not a single one mentions that appointment. I'm going to guess that not a single one also takes anything at other than face value and looks into whether he's part of a propaganda push for "guests".
Those who fail to look beyond the surface include sources such as RawStory (rawstory.com/news/mochila/Major_grower_ends_crop_lacking_work_03242008.html), CNN ("Migrant worker shortage crushes tomato farm", money.cnn.com/2008/03/24/news/economy/Immigrant_Labor.ap/index.htm), and Tom Bevan at RealClearPolitics ("A Test Case for Immigration", time-blog.com/real_clear_politics/2008/03/a_test_case_for_immigration.html).
Another source is Nancy Petersen of the Philadelphia Inquirer (link). It includes various farm bureau reps engaging in scare-mongering and posturing (Congress needs to act, said Furey of the New Jersey Farm Bureau: "We need a national solution that is realistic, in tune with the economy and fair to the people."), and yet another fun comment from good ol' Hacendado Eckel:
"No one will harvest tomatoes in 90 degree weather except immigrant labor."
For comparison purposes, see this form letter the "Texans for Sensible Immigration Policy" wanted their members to send to their representatives:
I work in the construction business in Houston Texas. I am here to tell you that we cannot find enough American citizens willing to labor in the hot sun!
UPDATE: The subject of the article is Keith Eckel, not Fred.
Immigration2008a · Mon, 03/24/2008 - 18:29 · Importance: 4