Couch potatoes, or real food?

Most Americans will not do the hard physical labor required to harvest our nation’s crops.

But in these days politicians, thinking that they’re doing us all a favor, want to meddle with immigration laws that effectively kick out the migrant workers who perform that hard work.

But most of us Americans are just not up to the task. Workers just will not do what many of our grandparents did  back in the day to get all that food out of the fields, into the supply chain, and into the pantries and bellies of consumers.

Here’s what has happened in Georgia in the last year or so, after the legislature went trying to meddle with the sensitive dynamics of supply/demand in agricultural labor markets.

In a conversation with Neal Conan of Talk of the Nation last Monday 4/30/12, Dick Minor, partner of Minor Produce, Andersonville Ga., and President of Georgia Fruit and Vegetable  Growers Association, said this:

“. . . that just anybody can come do this job is also a misnomer. We consider these people skilled workers because they are pretty much professional harvesters, and they’re even skilled to particular crops.

So people harvesting watermelons may not be able to pick peaches, and people picking blueberries may not be able to pick peppers. So certain crews that work in certain crops, and they do that year-round, as you know it’s very tough work. It’s very tough conditions – long hours. You’ve got to be in really good physical shape. You’ve got to know the process of harvesting crops.”

When Neal Conan asked Mr. Minor about using parolees to do the work, the President of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Associations said:

“It hasn’t worked out. I was actually one of the test farms that we did that on, and we tried to make it work. It runs into the same problem of using any other domestic workforce: They’re just not skilled in the technique to harvest the crop, nor are they physically able to do that work.

I mean, you have to imagine being in 100-degree days for 10 hours, and, you know, very physically demanding work, stooping down, running, lifting. You’ve got to be, sort of, trained, almost like an athlete. You’ve got to be trained to be able to do it, and we offered open employment to them all summer long, and we had just a constant turnstile of people coming and going.

And nobody was excited about doing it. A lot of them did it for several days, but none of them lasted.”

The net effect of the legislature’s misguided micromanagement of labor markets cost the state of Georgia, in Mr. Minor’s estimation, lost revenuers of $140 million, which, when the “multiplier” effect of that money is factored in, amounts to about $390 million.

This happened because 40%  of workers needed to harvest  Georgia’s crops in the last year were not there to do the work. The accustomed agricultural pickers did not show up because they were not hired because of  bad law, or the workes were afraid of the consequences of showing up and risking deportation.

But American couch potatoes wouldn’t get out in the fields and gather all those watermelons and peaches and whatnot.

In this country, we’ve traded real potatoes for couch potatoes. This is largely the result of our leisurely lifestyle, and obsession with entertainments, and government welfare that robs workers of incentives to prosper, and just plain old-fashioned laziness.

Americans don’ know how to work any more. Its no wonder that the corporations sitting on all that funny Federal money are unwilling to take a chance and grant us more employment.

CR, with new novel, Smoke,  in progress

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