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"Crops Rotting in the Fields" articles

For years, the media has been printing propaganda by farmers and growers warning about a veritable food Armageddon if they don't get all the cheap labor they want. The articles are just a scare tactic used because growers want a cheap, pliable labor force rather than employing legal workers at a good wage under good conditions. The self-styled reporters who write these articles invariably fail to ask growers any questions that might reveal that they're just engaging in scare tactics.

For recent discussions of how these articles are deceptive, see "Another Phony Farm Crisis" (link) and "'Bitter Harvest' Watch: Time Magazine Edition" (link).

farm income chart
Chart showing overall farm income from 2000 to 2011 (estimated) from ers.usda.gov/Features/FarmIncome. That income has risen despite illegal immigration being at a low ebb. Click for a larger version.

An early example of a deceptive "crops rotting" story is from 1963:

...California Farmer reported in 1963 that if the flow of braceros stopped, tomato growers and canners "agree the State will never [again be able to plant] the 100,000 to 175,000 acres planted when there was a guaranteed supplemental labor force in the form of the braceros..."

Reality, however, never confirmed these dire predictions. In 1960 some 45,000 farm workers (mostly braceros) had harvested 2.2 million tons of processing tomatoes. By 1999, it took only 5,000 workers to operate machinery that harvested some 12 million tons. Thanks to these efficiency gains from mechanization, the real price of processing tomatoes declined 54 percent while per capita consumption rose 23 percent...

In addition to the posts below, see the PIIPP propaganda articles, Jon Vessey, Western Growers, Tom Vilsack, and immigration agriculture.

Last modified Feb 20, 2013
Discussed in (click each link for the full post):

Jason Ritchie turns his back on American workers (Washington, Dave Reichert, HandiHabitats) - 05/20/14

... and get them to market. See the crops rotting in the fields and immigration agriculture pages for how that's wrong and the alternatives Ritchie isn't mentioning. Rather than, for instance, subsidizing American workers to pick crops under good working conditions, Ritchie sides with growers that want to import a foreign serf labor force working at lower wages under worse conditions. Then, there's...

Aaron Schock's treacherous, out-of-touch immigration comments - 04/22/14

... not getting harvested, see the crops rotting in the fields page for several examples of how deceptive that talking point is. 6. See skilled immigration for the downsides of that. The problem of de facto age discrimination in Silicon Valley and among other high tech employers is known, with workers over 50 of all types being unemployed longer than younger workers [3]. As is consistent with the...

John Flesher of AP rehashes decades-old article to help growers get cheap labor (Michigan, Pat McGuire, rotting crops) - 07/08/13

... very similar articles on the crops rotting in the fields page. Growers have been "planting" stories very similar to the one above for half a century: all of them warn about rotting crops. Like those other very similar articles, Flesher even quotes Tom Nassif of Western Growers. Despite the dire warnings, farm profits continue to rise. At the same time, there's no spike in farm laborer wages as...

USDA: millions fewer illegal aliens wouldn't devastate agriculture (farm labor supply economic models, guest workers) - 06/12/12

... growers, as chronicled on the crops rotting in the fields page. To hear growers tell it the sky would (almost literally) fall without a plentiful supply of illegal labor. Per the tall tales of growers (repeated by a sympathetic media) millions of acres of prime farmland would lie fallow, we'd all be eating lead-soaked vegetables grown in China, and the whole U.S. economy would collapse. Yet, in...

Tom Vilsack promotes illegal activity, uses bogus "crops rotting" line - 02/24/12

... functioning." 1. Vilsack is using the crops rotting in the fields talking point, one that growers have been using for decades; see the link. 2. Vilsack is promoting comprehensive immigration reform aka amnesty, see the link for several huge downsides of that plan that he would never acknowledge. Parts of the reform he has in mind would involve a guest workers program and AgJobs; see those links...

With millions of Americans unemployed, Keith Olbermann promotes cheap, exploitable foreign labor (Georgia immigration law, Matt Ramsey) - 06/25/11

... take a look at the posts on the crops rotting in the fields page. Those posts show how - for literally decades - growers have been complaining about labor shortages due to immigration enforcement or due to guest workers programs that weren't to their liking. Those frequently cookie-cutter articles use scare tactics to push for looser immigration policies or to oppose enforcement, frequently...

With millions unemployed, Ag Secy Tom Vilsack demeans American workers, promotes amnesty, opposes enforcement, uses bogus talking points, opposes eVerify - 05/27/11

... Bureau Federation, who engaged in crops rotting in the fields scare tactics: "Our concern is that without a legal agricultural guest worker program in place – or without comprehensive immigration reform – you have roughly 500,000 workers out there that, frankly, would be screened out (by) a mandatory E-Verify program. If that happens, the risk of production losses, or production moving outside...

Stephen Colbert shills for growers, supports bad policy in Congressional appearance (+rightwinger fail) - 09/24/10

... pro-grower propaganda, similar to the crops rotting in the fields propaganda efforts stretching back decades. Those groups showed themselves incapable of striking back against such propaganda. And, most of Colbert's fans appear unable to recognize just whose side Colbert is on. ADDED: 5. I added the "who are responsible for the current situation" above; hopefully that was clear before. 6....

Mike Thomas of Orlando Sentinel supports exploitation of farm workers to keep prices low (UFW's anti-American takeourjobs) - 07/14/10

Mike Thomas of the Orlando Sentinel offers "If illegal immigrants go, produce prices would skyrocket" (link), a breezy attempt to put a happy face on the United Farmworkers of America's anti-American, pro-exploitation takeourjobs effort. The UFW's satire dares Americans to take farmworker jobs, falsely claiming that Americans are too lazy to do hard work. At the same time as smearing Americans,...

Feinstein re-introduces AgJobs farmworker amnesty/indentured servitude bill - 05/14/09

... stories", they discuss a few crops rotting in the fields articles, part of the decades-long line of grower-friendly propaganda promising $10 heads of lettuce without a guest workers program. Two out of the three were discussed here: one about growers moving operations to Mexico, and another from a year ago featuring a tomato grower whining. As it turned out, he had been named to a panel by...

Dianne Feinstein's "Emergency Agriculture Relief Act of 2008": mini-AgJobs - 04/01/08

... the endless propaganda about crops rotting in the fields is anything other than an attempt to gain cheaper labor. You can send a FAX about this here; perhaps you could suggest that she sticks to doing things like this instead.

Michael Rubinkam/AP offers yet more "crops rotting in the fields" propaganda - 03/24/08

... 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...

DHS revamping agriculture guest worker programs (crops rotting in fields, redefining "temporary") - 10/07/07

Nicole Gaouette of the Los Angeles Times offers "U.S. lets in more immigrants for farms" (link): With a nationwide farmworker shortage threatening to leave unharvested fruits and vegetables rotting in fields, the Bush administration has begun quietly rewriting federal regulations to eliminate barriers that restrict how foreign laborers can legally be brought into the country. ...On all sides...

Agrigeddon! WSJ says fewer cukes being grown this year - 07/20/07

The Wall Street Journal offers "Immigration Non-Harvest" (PDF), which is designed to promote the AgJOBS amnesty. The tale is not to be taken seriously and is presented here only because it's so funny: ...This spring, labor shortages forced Michigan growers to leave asparagus rotting in the fields, while farmers in North Carolina lost nearly a third of their cucumber crop last year. They're...

Deja moo: Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform on Capitol Hill May 15 - 05/14/07

Didn't I read this press release a few months ago? Yet, it's got today's date on it, and tomorrow the "Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform" will be meeting with "Senator Larry Craig [R-ID] and Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA)" [sic] to advance their cheap labor agenda: A group of lawmakers and farmers will gather to ask Congress to pass responsible immigration reform. Labor shortages are...

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007: S9 - 01/17/07

Via this and this we learn that Harry Reid has introduced Senate Bill 9 (S.9, S9), the "Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007".

Feinstein, Larry Craig to push AgJobs (illegal alien farmworker amnesty) - 01/09/07

... that strain credulity; see the "crops rotting in the fields" series for past examples. It also contains this statement that's wrong for one reason and raises questions for another: Growers and farm worker advocates don't agree on how to fix a system that has allowed an estimated 12 million immigrants to enter the country illegally. First, as the list of AgJobs endorsers (fourth link above) shows...

Todd Spivak: mostly pro-grower, pro-illegal immigration propaganda - 12/09/06

... another in a long line of the "crops rotting in the fields because we can't get enough illegal aliens" articles. As in the other articles, you've got weeping growers pining over their supposedly rotting crops: "It's very emotional," [Bernie Thiel] says. "You have a certain amount of time to get it done and if you don't get it done, that's it, it's over." You've got the stolid GOP members who are...

NYT: Growers want to be subsidized (they already are) - 12/03/06

... growers pining for cheap labor Crops rotting in the fields... enforcing immigration laws to blame? A "comprehensive" 1986 amnesty would have prevented pro-grower propaganda Farmers hollowed when laws followed

Miranda Vagg transcribes growers pining for cheap labor - 10/10/06

Miranda Vagg of the "Greater Niagara Newspapers" group (printed in New York's "Lockport Union-Sun & Journal") offers a slab of pro-illegal immigration propaganda called "IMMIGRATION RAIDS: Local farmers reeling from busts".

Crops rotting in the fields... enforcing immigration laws to blame? - 09/12/06

... revolving around the topic of "crops rotting in the fields unless we get more cheap labor." Most of those articles - even one appearing in al Guardian - are simply propaganda, with the "reporters" simply transcribing the hyperbolic remarks of farmers and growers. Now, however, Jim Downing of the Sa

A "comprehensive" 1986 amnesty would have prevented pro-grower propaganda - 08/24/06

Today's Wacky but Thought-Provoking Immigration Quote of the Day is featured in the article "Immigration bill sticker shock". The quote source is John Young, co-chairman of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform: "In my opinion, the fairer question is: How will illegal immigrants impact the costs of healthcare, local education, and social services without passage of comprehensive...

Farmers hollowed when laws followed - 08/10/06

Drivers along the 5 Freeway through California's Central Valley are treated to signs saying, "Crops grow where water flows" or similar. Based on growers' support for illegal labor, perhaps they should consider throwing signs saying "Farmers hollowed when laws followed" into the mix. From "Farmers say 'enforcement only' immigration will cripple industry" by Eunice Moscoso: After the Sept.

Immigration laws squeeze cherry, grape farmers; Mike Johanns - 07/01/06

Various newspapers have printed an infinite series of propaganda featuring various growers complaining about how their crops are rotting in the fields because of a lack of cheap foreign serf labor.

Allied Grape Growers admits using illegal alien labor; McCain, Johanns - 06/30/06

The latest in a long line of stories about farmers desperate for cheap foreign labor contains a public admission that should be a bit shocking and - if the Bush administration and most of Congress weren't corrupt - would result in an investigation.

Whatever will we do without child labor? - 03/29/06

In October, Mark Krikorian of CIS testified before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary about "Comprehensive Immigration Reform II". As their recent actions show, they weren't paying attention: Lobbyists for business will disagree of course, but their claims of doom and gloom are nothing new. Forty years ago, for instance, California tomato farmers said that their industry would cease to exist...

Georgia farmers should just consider out-and-out bribery - 02/23/06

... offers today's article about crops rotting in the fields: "Effects of Crackdown on Illegals". It contains several quotes from Georgia farmers claiming that they'd go out of business if they couldn't hire workers. And, while they claim that all of them provide the proper documentation, they also admit that most of them are probably here illegally.

Dania Akkad of Monterey Herald warns: crops may rot in fields - 01/09/06

Today's "crops might rot in the field if we don't get enough cheap illegal labor" article is offered by Dania Akkad of the Monterey Herald in "Farmworker shortage leaves growers fearing for crops". Previously in this series of propaganda: "More fretful farmers whining for you to pay for their labor".

More fretful farmers whining for you to pay for their labor - 12/10/05

The N.C. Times' William Finn Bennett offers "Local farmers fret over rising cost of wages".

Jon Vessey, crops rotting in the fields, and pro-illegal immigration propaganda - 12/05/05

... labor to pick it. (UPDATE: see crops rotting in the fields). On 11/21, the WaPo featured him in "Shortage of Immigrant Workers Alarms Growers in West" (link), and today the Los Angeles Times features him in "Picking a Battle Over Shortage of Farmworkers" (link). And, he was apparently also featured saying similar things in Copley News Service and USA Today. And, the CSM article (link) I...

"America's produce industry is facing a crisis" - 12/02/05

... another frequent quote source from crops rotting in the fields articles, Jon Vessey: Imperial Valley lettuce farmer Jack Vessey says it's the worst in his lifetime. Farther north in California's Central Valley, orange grower Manuel Cunha calls it the most constrained since before World War II. Coastal tomato grower Luwanna Holmstrom constantly worries about a repeat of two years ago, when she...

"[Idaho] County Commissioner Bills Mexican Government For Illegal Aliens" - 04/21/04

From this: Thousands of migrant farm workers are here legally but many are here illegally. It was that portion of the migrant labor population that Canyon County Commissioner Robert Vasquez singled out for special attention today suggesting that the Mexican government should reimburse local taxpayers for their expenses.

"The Mirage of Mexican Guest Workers" - 01/12/04

The highly recommended article "The Mirage of Mexican Guest Workers" from Foreign Affairs magazine (80 Foreign Affairs No. 6, November/December 2001) is required reading for anyone concerned about the Bush/Fox Amnesty. It was written in response to the amnesty Bush had proposed shortly before 9/11, however it's just as timely as if it was written last week. The authors are Philip L. Martin (UC...