April 11, 2008

Commentary:

U.S. Agriculture Begins its Move to Mexico

By Patrick Osio, Jr.
Hispanic Business

The law of unintended consequences is at work. Anti-immigrant groups claiming they are anti-illegal immigration, not anti-immigrants, but have succeeded in turning Congress against any thought of allowing (legal) temporary agricultural guest workers to enter the United States for the seasonal planting and harvesting of U.S. crops, is having its effects – not enough workers.

CNN’s Lou Dobbs who once announced in his patented scowling manner, “I am sick of hearing there aren’t enough Americans to do the work illegal aliens do,” is now nowhere to be heard regarding the drastic labor shortage facing farmers throughout the United States.

In Pennsylvania the largest grower of tomatoes and other crops, this March has called it quits. Unable to get enough workers, the doors are closing on the business. So this summer, Pennsylvanians will have to import most of their vegetables from somewhere else – like Mexico.

The Mexican government has quietly dusted off a plan from the 1980s that called for promoting agri-maquilas, wherein U.S. farmers would be invited to start growing operations in Mexico to eliminate the border crossing of so many of their citizens, but were rebuffed by U.S. growers due to the ease of hiring illegal border crossers.

Mexico’s invitation is now beginning to pay off. From less than $20-million in 2005, annual foreign investment in the agricultural sector surpassed $62 million in 2007 with 95 percent of the amount from the United States. And the dollar amount investment growth is expected to continue, as the 2008 investment is well ahead of last year’s.

According to Reforma news service, Israel Camacho, undersecretary for Baja California’s agricultural department said that in Baja California alone 17 new U.S. enterprises have arranged with Mexican agricultural producers for the cultivation of horticultural products and vegetables. Adding, the Mexicans supply the land, water and labor, and the foreigners supply money, seed and other implements. They are coming to Mexico because of cheap labor and more are going to come.

The same story is being heard in the states of Sonora, abutting Arizona, and in the central states of Mexico – Jalisco, Guanajuato, Queretaro and the Pacific Coast states of Sinaloa and Nayarit. These states have historically provided a large segment of the illegal immigrants to the United States, so for U.S. farmers settling in those states provides a “stay home, we’ll bring the work to you.” Other states such as Michoacan and Oaxaca have also been providers of large numbers of illegal immigrants. Their promotional departments are now gearing up to begin their own campaigns to attract agri-investment.

It is not in the best interest of the United States to become dependent on foreign countries for basic food supplies. Such rhetoric like Dobbs’, Congressmen Tancredo’s, Bilbray’s, and Hunter’s “lets build a fence across the US to keep them out,” have prevailed with the news media and halls of Congress, is now creating the “foreign dependency on food” to be added to the growing list of “dependency” products.

What did they expect would happen? Did they really think that the simplistic ideas they champion would stop illegal immigration and Americans would jump at the chance to work in agricultural fields?

If they did truly believe this, their simplistic ideas are the result of simple minds. But fear not, they will now switch over to the simplistic excuse that they had nothing to do with making the United States dependent of foreign cultivated food – and of course, it’s Mexico’s fault for promoting such investment and that damned NAFTA taking jobs from Americans in one more sector.

Reprinted from New California Media

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