Comments about ‘My view: My View: Immigration reform — a farmer's view’

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Published: Friday, Sept. 13 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

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West Jordan, UT

So bring in workers...legally.

tranquility base, 00

I think Utah farmers might want to not vote republican anymore. How about them apples?

Here, UT

Nice opinion piece. I bet you're going to get a lot of hate from your local conservatives.


I keep hearing this. I never once saw an ad asking for harvest help anywhere and we live near many orchards. I once asked an orchard farmer if there was any work at harvest time and he told me he used immigrant labor and the work was hard. I did not receive any encouragement and I never saw him again; it was not harvest time when I made my inquiry and he never got back with me.

I heard one politician make the same claim, that these orchard farmers couldn't get "Americans" to do the work. Somehow neither I never heard about these advertisements. I think that there are local unemployed people to do this work (maybe not in Payson where the writer of this article is) who would love the opportunity, and who are citizens and legal residents of the USA, but are not getting the word.

I agree it is wasteful not to pick the fruit and I cannot believe it is happening. Where do we look for these "opportunities" before another year goes by of wasted fruit? I will work in the evenings and on Saturdays to learn how hard it is.


"The North Carolina Growers Association (NCGA), which supplies manual laborers to North Carolina farms. The NCGA is the nation's largest user of the H-2A guest worker program, which is designed with agricultural workers in mind. Under that program's regulations, Clemens explains, NCGA "must submit an application to the US Department of Labor proving that it has actively recruited US natives and native workers will not take NCGA jobs.

When native unemployed people are referred to NCGA, they're almost without exception hired; between 1998 and 2011, 97 percent of referred applicants were hired. But they don't tend to last. In 2011, 245 people were hired out of 268 referred, but only 163 (66.5 percent) of the hired applicants actually showed up to the first day of work. Worse, only seven lasted to the end of the growing season:

Mexican workers are far likelier to stick through the season than native-born workers. About 90 percent were still working five months along, compared to less than 10 percent of native-born workers:"
(Washington Post 2013)


SACRAMENTO -- Two out of three California farmers reported having a hard time finding enough workers to pick their crops this year.

In an online survey of 800 members conducted by the California Farm Bureau Federation, 61% of respondents said they dealt with worker shortages of varying degrees.

Farmers growing labor-intensive crops, such as tree fruits, vegetables, table grapes, raisins and berries had the most trouble finding mostly immigrant workers to pick and prune."
(LA Times 2012)

"Frank van Straalen, COO of Eurofresh Farms in Wilcox, Arizona, says very few native-born Americans apply for jobs in his greenhouses and those that do typically quit.

Jerry Spencer's Hispanic workers left with the passage of Alabama’s new immigration law, he thought he’d recruit unemployed U.S. citizens to pick the tomatoes. However, “jobless resident Americans lack the physical stamina and the mental toughness to see the job through,” Spencer stated.

The labor shortage left crops rotting fields this spring and summer at a cost of $74.9 million to Georgia farmers. The farmers said they lacked 40% of the total work force they needed."
(CS Monitor 2011)

Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah

Every business could make the same claim. I could. You could. Everyone could.

Harvesting crops is part of being a farmer. If that farmer can't find workers in Utah County with over 50,000 college students always looking for work, then that farmer isn't trying very hard.

What is his profit on a 16 pound box of cherries? The money that he pays to migrant workers leaves the country. It doesn't circulate around Utah County. A well run business makes 10% to 15% profit, so, instead of $300,000, that producer would have closer to $30,000 to spend. Granted, he might need to replace some equipment each year, so the machinery dealer might make a small profit with the majority of that money leaving the state.

If that farmer wants to stay in business he'd better learn how to recruit Americans to work his orchards, just like every other business learns to recruit workers from the pool of workers that is available.

one old man
Ogden, UT

Several years ago, an orchardist in Box Elder County told me that he had stopped hiring American teens to work in his harvest. He said they played around so much they hardly picked any fruit and what they did pick wound up being thrown at other teens instead. Now, no doubt, they'd be texting one another instead of throwing peaches.

There is a line in this letter that speaks volumes -- young Americans lack the mental and physical stamina needed for the work.

That should scare the living bejeebers out of all of us. Because it's true.

I picked a lot of fruit when I was a kid. Starting when I was in eighth grade. It's not all that hard. But then, I knew if I was going to go to college and achieve some of my other dreams I needed to have money in the bank.

I bet a lot of other older Americans can tell us all what has changed.

Fitness Freak
Salt Lake City, UT

With all due respect Mr. McMullin - you're on the wrong side of this issue.

Advocates for amnesty don't care much about your farm. You said yourself you're not getting enough migrant workers. Instead, they are driving past your farm and heading for the "better" jobs in construction, hotels, drug dealing, etc.

I'm all in favor of helping revamp the agricultural visa program to make it easier for farmers to get their harvesting done. Thats' NOT where the problem lies.

The problem is that the illegal trespassers are displacing all kinds of other professions, and contribute little (if anything)to local economies. They send most of their $$$ back home. But they leave us with their hospital emergency room visit costs, their cost of education, welfare, WIC, etc.
If it was all about "agricultural jobs" we wouldn't be in the mess we are in now! Lobbyists for smarmy businesses just want to enlist YOUR help so they don't have to pay decent wages in all other segments of the economy!

Cottonwood Heights, UT

The article is very convincing coming from someone at the "epi-center" of the issue. Mike Richards, your comments are very inconsiderate.


@Mike Richards

"Every business could make the same claim. I could. You could. Everyone could."

Every business has lost 4/5ths of its gross revenues due to the inability to hire seasonal workers? Ridiculous.

Equally ridiculous are your claims that the money paid to migrant workers leaves the country and that a business that grosses $300k only has $30K to spend. I have advised farming businesses, equipment suppliers, and farm employees. Do you think farm workers don't eat, don't have transportaion expenses, etc.? Some money leaves the country, but the percentage is not great.

A farmer who grosses $300K has $300K to spend, not $30K. Of the $300K, a lot goes for fertilizer, water, equipment, and wages (for both permanent and temporary workers). Most of the $300K benefits the local economy directly or indirectly.

I have advised many types of businesses for many years and can say that farmers have a unique set of problems without easy solutions. To claim that farming is just like any other business is simply ignorant.

Fitness Freak
Salt Lake City, UT

With respect to "Mike Richards" and "heretic", I agree that more can/should be done to recruit more American workers in the orchards.

The problem is we have such a HUGE "social safety net" for those who don't want to work. Why should they?

I worked in orchards in Orem summers from the time I was 13-17. 5 a.m. to 9p.m. (or whenever it got too dark. NO ONE appreciates the skill of the migrant workers more than I. I was lucky to earn 10.00 per day. The migrant workers earned 6x that because they were so much faster and skilled. A surgeon couldn't have better or faster hands.

The amnesty issue is being pushed by businessmen who would like to pay workers much below the prevailing wage and then have the "rest of society" pick up the social costs.

Believe me, "heretic" if I could have EVERY ONE of the employers of illegal immigrants (besides agricultural)thrown in the "pokey" or fined, I would.

In Utah county, its NOT the conservatives who are pushing for amnesty, its' the RINO's, who receive MASSIVE "donations" from construction and other businesses who use them on a daily basis.

American Fork, UT

I agree. If it weren't for immigrants, this country could not afford a lot of the produce it takes for granted, especially lettuce. No American is going to do what they do for what they get paid, trust me.

Eric Samuelsen
Provo, UT

Excellent op-ed piece. Well done, sir, for an informed and thoughtful opinion.

Mike Richards
South Jordan, Utah

Happy Valley Heretic,

How many businesses have you started? How many people have your businesses employed? You are so quick to divert attention from the fact that EVERY business faces the same kinds of problems.

1. Government regulations. Whether those regulations be as simple as registering your business and collecting sales tax or whether your business is totally controlled by the govenrment you MUST comply before you can operate a business.

2. Labor. Whether you are the only "employee" or whether you demend on the work of others to make your product or provide your service you have to pay someone to do something, even if that "someone" is yourself.

3. Product. Whether you offer a product or a service, you must be totally aware of other businesses that offer the same type of product or service and you must compete.

I grew up on a farm. I am fully aware of the costs of doing business as a farmer. I have seen farm after farm after farm close down because the farmer didn't know how to change from a 1920's paradigm to the 2000's paradigm.

How many farms have you owned?

2 bits
Cottonwood Heights, UT

This problem has many facets. It's not easy to solve. I think everybody knows we need temp workers for harvest. I don't think the solution is illegal immigration. I would rather see a temporary worker permit program (Like Republicans proposed). Many of these workers don't want to become American Citizens. They just want work, to help their family in Mexico live, and they intend to go back to Mexico.

Part of the prolem is that Americans are not wo upity to do these jobs. I did them when I was young. Our youth are too good for these jobs.

But just letting people come illegally, without registering or knowing when they came or when they plan to return to Mezico is NOT a good solution.

Amnesty is also not the solution. It didn't fix the problem when Reagan did it. Why would it solve the problem today?

I think we should focus on a temp worker program, and making sure people who do want citixensip in the end... follow the legal process.

LDS Liberal
Farmington, UT

What we need is another Cesar Chavez.

Happy Valley Heretic
Orem, UT

Did you misunderstand Mike? Did I say I was an expert? Nope I said the farmer was.
You were the one who started spouting their expertise on yet another subject I suspect you know little about.

I grew up on a farm too. I don't think that makes me an expert by any means.
And I wouldn't pretend to tell someone, that I knew better than them, as an armchair expert.

A general description of what you think businesses are doesn't help your argument.

Ultra Bob
Cottonwood Heights, UT

Many farmers are good, decent, honest Americans who believe in the American creed of equal justice for all. However some are just ordinary businessmen who seek to press their advantage on others.

The reason that people from foreign countries are willing to work hard for low wages is because of the hardships to life in their own countries. When you are working to obtain food to survive, you work much harder than if you are working to get a better cell phone. The reason that Americans shun low wage jobs is that they are growing up in a land where the standard of living is much higher and the jobs less demanding.

Businessmen cannot change the conditions in the foreign countries so to make things equal they try to pull the American workers down to the same level as the foreign workers.

It’s hard to fault the businessman for taking advantage of opportunity, but it is hard not to fault the businessman for creating the opportunity.

Happy Valley, UT

Thanks, Robert. Excellent "My View." You even predicted the comments by the naysayers who failed to adequately answer your points.

As a preteen, I picked cherries in my grandfather's orchard. So did all my friends. We didn't get rich, but we made some good spending money. And my grandfather, an accountant who raised fruit on the side, made a few dollars. As a teenager, I was promoted to managing the picking. Back then some kids worked hard. Some didn't. But we had enough interest from the kids in the community that we didn't have to hire migrant workers. That changed by the time my dad took over the orchard. The kids were no longer interested in hard work. I'm sure it's even more so today. I agree with you that we need to solve our immigration situation. Let's hope our representatives in Congress can see past partisan politics and get this done.

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