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

John Flesher of the Associated Press offers "Farmers worry about fate of immigration bills" [1], a rehash of the same, decades-old article that dozens of news sources have used to get growers cheap, exploitable farm labor.

Only the names, locations, and crops have changed this time around:

For northern Michigan fruit grower Pat McGuire, the most potent symbol of the immigration debate isn't grainy television footage showing people slipping furtively across the U.S.-Mexican border. Instead, it's plump red cherries and crisp apples rotting on the ground because there aren't enough workers to pick them - a scenario that could become reality over the next couple of months.

Across the state's orchard belt, cherry trees already sag under the weight of bright-red clusters, yet many trailers and wood-frame cottages that should be bustling with migrant families stand empty. McGuire is waiting to hear whether crews will show up to pick his crop in mid-July.

...From Christmas tree growers in the Appalachians to Wisconsin dairy farmers and producers of California's diverse abundance of fruits and vegetables, agricultural leaders are pleading with Congress for an immigration bill that includes more lenient and less complex rules for hiring farm workers.

Now, see all the many 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 one would expect if there were an actual shortage.

In only one sentence does Flesher hint that the growers' dire warnings are just an attempt to gain ever cheaper labor:

The industry insists its chronic labor shortage isn't a matter of low pay, but too few Americans willing to deal with the long hours, hot weather and other hardships of farm labor.

There's a way to find out, see the "crops" link above. Flesher doesn't do that and doesn't challenge the assertions of those he quotes.

Want to do something about this? Contact @JohnFlesher with your thoughts, and also search for those who he chats with or who tweet at him and send them the link to this post.

[1] startribune . com/lifestyle/214573921.html