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Let Them Eat Dirt
Author: BobR    Date: 05/27/2020 13:26:36

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the U.S. incredibly hard. As of this writing, there are 1.7M cases, and over 100K deaths. The effects are not just devastating to the health of those who catch it - it has also pushed our health care "system" to the limits (including those front-line workers dealing with the sick). Businesses of all types are going under as workers (and customers) are forced to stay home.

One of the most disturbing aspects of this is the effect on farmers. They too are being affected by a lack of customers (restaurants) and lack of workers. The former is hard to understand - people still need to eat, but will be doing so at home. Why would the demand for food decrease?

It's a two-fold problem. The supply chain is in distress because of the massive upswing in people shopping online instead of in person. That increases the load on the shipping/trucking industry. Add to that the loss of workers in that profession, and it's easy to see how logistics has been maxed out. There's also the reality of packaging. Packaging for sale in grocery stores and packaging for the restaurant industry are very different, in labeling, size, and middleman. Sysco - a very large restaurant supply company - would be one of those immediate customers of the farmers who suddenly stopped buying, although they are doing what they can in the interim.

The latter part of that problem for farmers - lack of workers - could have been prevented. This "administration", however, has been a xenophobic nightmare for anyone who isn't white. For as long as I've been alive, migrant workers have been the backbone of the farming industry, whether it be lettuce or grapes or apples or crabs. For the last couple years, the crabbing industry in MD has been adversely affected due to a lack of H-2B visas. The work is there, but Americans won't do it. For farmers, with no one to pick the crops and no one to buy them, it's cheaper to just plow them under:
But that same week, on a farm just 20 minutes away, at least two fields of fresh lettuce were disced back into the ground, left to rot as the restaurants that buy the produce struggle to stay afloat. Solorio’s husband works on that farm and suggested that the farm donate the lettuce to a food bank.

“But who is going to pick it?” she asked.

[...]

Longtime farmer John Harris, of Harris Farms, was growing 204 acres of lettuce for Salinas-based Taylor Farms, one of the giants in the industry. But that all changed when the restaurants they supply turned off their stoves. Last week, Harris’ workers plowed under nearly 13 acres of fresh lettuce that had nowhere else to go.

“It is a very unfortunate situation, but the demand all of a sudden was just falling apart,” Harris said.

For many farmers, it’s more cost-effective to let crops rot in the fields. They can’t afford to harvest it if there is no market for it, and food banks can’t cover the full cost of labor.

[...]

Restaurant dairy processors can’t simply redirect their cheese and butter to retail because they cut huge slabs the grocery store can’t take. And in part due to restrictions on buying dairy at major grocery stores, the industry isn’t seeing enough demand to stay afloat.

Why not donate all that unused milk to food banks? Federal regulations require that milk be processed first, and that costs money dairy farmers don’t have right now.

It's not just the visa problem causing a shortage of workers. While food rots in the fields, and crab farmers see their capacity dwindle away, this "administration" is actively forcing those people who could come here and do the jobs unemployed Americans wouldn't do (and don't have the experience and skills to do) to leave the country and/or give up their refugee claims:
Dad lives about 10 miles from the White House, stringing together gardening jobs, not letting the kids touch him when he gets home for fear of contagion.

Mom lives in a makeshift refugee camp on the border in Matamoros, Mexico, one of the world's most dangerous cities, rationing soap.

Three of the children — ages 10, 14, and 16 — just joined their father, Jose, after winning release from a government shelter where they had been held for more than two months. Now, they have deportation orders hanging over their heads.

U.S. officials are fighting in court to take the three children and deport them to El Salvador — to no one. The only way to avoid being separated from their parents, officials say, would be for their mother in Mexico to give up, too. Government lawyers said they’d put her on a plane with the kids if she agreed to return to El Salvador and never again try to join her husband in the U.S.

[...]

Scores of migrant families across the country are being targeted, according to court documents and more than 20 officials, judges, lawyers and migrants. Many spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of jeopardizing their legal cases.

The fates of many of them may hinge on Jose's family's case, which has become a test of the administration's latest policies to bar migrant kids and families, said Claudia Cubas, the litigation director for the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition, and Jose's lawyer.

With Jose’s family’s case the furthest along in the courts, “this is either going to make it or break it for people,” she said.

I've long felt that migrant workers need more protection to ensure they are paid fair wages, have safe working conditions, and are protected by the same labor laws that protect all of us. They want to work, and the farming industry wants them too. Only this administration and the other xenophobes in our country want them gone.

Even if it means no lettuce on their hamberders.

One the meat starts getting scarce, will they stick to their guns?


 
 

4 comments (Latest Comment: 05/27/2020 14:28:57 by livingonli)
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