The Good Old New Days
The immigration issue has divided agriculture right down the middle.
June 19, 2008
Here at Meister Media, our magazines cover a broad swath of agriculture - fruits and vegetables, cotton and ornamental plants. It can be very interesting to hear the point of view of growers in other crop areas. I was surprised to hear the difference of opinion among growers in these areas on the issue of immigration until I heard the whole story.
Everyone laments the end of the "good old days" - the steel mills, the family farm, American-produced goods - but not enough people are willing to do what it takes to keep the old way alive. What growers are asking for is a new old way - saving agriculture in America with new employment rules. How can any legislator who is pro-business be against that?
The dividing line in agriculture runs through automation. In markets that have fully automated processes, you'll find loud and vocal objections to immigration reform that includes a guestworker program. Use automation, they say. I'm sure it would be easier for all growers if there was magical automation that could delicately and accurately mechanize anything. It would save on labor costs. There would be no more talk of "jobs the average American doesn't want."
But that magical automation doesn't exist. So ornamental growers are asking for the only solution they see to the problem. It's not an easy fix or an easy answer by any means. ANLA's Craig Regelbrugge and SAF's Lin Schmale will tell you that. So will growers, who worry whether seasonal workers will return in large enough numbers to stick cuttings or growers who learn Spanish and help workers learn English so they can communicate. They're doing what they need to do to get the job done. Now we just need the government to do what they can to get their jobs done.
The Solutions That Work
Right now, a better guestworker program seems to be a solution that would work. Every business seeks out solutions. If you've figured another one out, please let us know. Until then, check out the non-enchanted automation (which is good, too) in our Automation Roundup starting on page 36.
And read up on the latest on no-match letters and AgJOBS in BenchPress on page 16. We'll eventually find solutions to our business problems that make everyone happy, don't you think?
Sara Tambascio is senior online editor of Greenhouse Grower. You can eMail her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follower her on Twitter @Sara_GG_TGC.