crops rotting in the fields

"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 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):

Why Melissa Block of NPR isn't credible - 09/27/17

At NPR, Melissa Block offers the highly deceptive "'They're Scared': Immigration Fears Exacerbate Migrant Farmworker Shortage" [1]. It was heard on All Things Considered, but one of the things not considered was such very pro-grower propaganda has been pushed for decades and it's always bogus.

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

Jason Ritchie is running to unseat Rep. Dave Reichert in Washington's 8th District.

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

On the video below, Rep. Aaron Schock (GOP of Illinois) makes immigration comments that are nearly as treacherous as some George W Bush made. But, the hallmark of Schock's comments is not so much how un-American they are, but how out-of-touch they are.

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

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:

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

The table at [1] is from a Department of Agriculture study (link) showing the impacts of two different immigration scenarios:

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

At the Department of Agriculture's 2012 Agricultural Outlook Forum, Ag secretary Tom Vilsack once again promoted illegal activity now and an amnesty or guest workers program for illegal aliens in the future.

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

On his June 23 show, Keith Olbermann supported cheap, illegal foreign labor working in sometimes dangerous conditions rather than legal workers working for acceptable wages under safe conditions. And, he either fell for or tried to promote pro-illegal immigration propaganda.

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

Secretary of the Department of Agriculture Tom Vilsack held a press conference on Wednesday in which he demeaned American workers, promoted immigration "reform", opposed immigration enforcement, and used a series of bogus immigration talking points. An account of his remarks is here, with more excerpts at [1]. 1. Vilsack ran down American workers, saying: "While some American citizens step up and take (farm) jobs, the truth is even when farmers make their best effort to recruit a domestic workforce, few citizens express interest. In large part that's because this is hard, tough work." The...

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

Stephen Colbert testified before Congress earlier today and shilled for Big Agriculture and promoted bad, anti-American and anti-Mexican policy. And, the wider issue is also yet another example of failure by the rightwing commentariat, tea parties, and similar groups. 1. Coverage of Colbert's remarks is here and here. 2. Colbert is working with the United Farmworkers of America to promote their anti-American, pro-abuse TakeOurJobs effort. I've already written three posts about that effort, the latest was on Wednesday at that link. The two previous are here and here. 3. From his remarks: This...

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'

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

Senator Dianne Feinstein has re-introduced the "Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security Act" (AgJobs) farmworker amnesty plan [1] with sixteen co-sponsors [2]. Consider these listed features: # Undocumented agriculture workers would be eligible for a “blue card” if they can demonstrate having worked in American agriculture for at least 150 work days (or 863 hours) over the previous two years before December 31, 2008. # The blue card holder would be required to work in American agriculture for an additional three years (working at least 150 work days per year) or five years (...

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

Senator Dianne Feinstein's robotic quest to help growers in California and otehr states obtain cheap labor continues as she will apparently offer the "Emergency Agriculture Relief Act of 2008", as described here: [It] would provide temporary limited legal immigration status to experienced farmworkers who must continue to work in agriculture for five years after enactment. Workers, however, could not obtain legal permanent resident status (green cards), the program would be capped at 1.35 million workers nationwide and eligibility would be limited to those who can prove agricultural...

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

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...

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 of the farm industry, the administration's behind-the-scenes initiative to revamp H-2A farmworker visas is fraught with anxiety. Advocates for immigrants fear the changes will come at the expense of...

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 growing fewer cukes this summer... Growers who can't find enough workers to pick cantaloupe and eggplant are already substituting row crops such as wheat, corn or soybeans that are more highly mechanized....

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 being reported on American farms across the country, leaving crops rotting in the field. Agriculture Needs Action Now from Congress to secure access to a legal and stable workforce. Those coming by...

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

Garance Burke of the AP swallows grower propaganda till, tractor, and plow in "California farmers gear up to champion new guest worker bill". She also reveals that CA Senator Dianne Feinstein and Idaho Senator Larry Craig will be introducing a new farmworker amnesty scheme tomorrow. It appears to be a new version of AgJobs, and: The bill would create a pilot program allowing people who have worked in agriculture for at least 150 days a year for three years, or 100 days per year for five years, to apply for a green card. It would grant legal status to no more than 1.5 million workers over five...

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

Todd Spivak of the Houston Press offers "Shorthanded: Foreign pickers aren't getting through the post-9/11 barricades to harvest U.S. crops" (link).

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

Alexei Barrionuevo of the New York Times offers "Imports Spurring Push to Subsidize Produce": For decades, the fiercely independent fruit and vegetable growers of California, Florida and other states have been the only farmers in America who shunned federal subsidies, delivering produce to the tables of millions of Americans on their own. But now, in the face of tough new competition primarily from China, even these proud groups are buckling. Produce farmers, their hands newly outstretched, have joined forces for the first time, forming a lobby group intended to pressure politicians over...

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

This site has highlighted a long series of articles 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 immigration reform? ...Had we solved this problem in a truly comprehensive way in 1986 ...

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" (cis dot org/articles/2005/msktestimony101805o.html). As their recent actions show, they weren't paying attention:

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

Russ Bynum of the AP 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

Jon Vessey is a California grower who's been quoted in a few recent articles about how crops will rot in the fields unless growers get more cheap 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 discussed in "America's produce industry is facing a crisis"...

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

Nothing says propaganda like the annual whine from growers demanding more serf labor lest their crops rot in the fields. There have been a few recent newspaper articles about it, and the latest is "A drought of farm labor" (

"[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 Davis) and Michael S. Teitelbaum (Alfred P. Sloan Foundation). Unfortunately, the full text is not available online. You can buy a copy here, or do as I did: go to your local library. Here are some...