My View: Immigration reform — a farmer's view

Return To Article
Add a comment
  • kiddsport Fairview, UT
    Sept. 19, 2013 2:10 p.m.

    If not for the chronic abundance of cheap foreign labor, I guarantee you American farmers, coupled with American ingenuity, would have figured out how to mechanize the harvest of crops and by now, the cost of that mechanization would have been driven down just as the cost of computers has been driven down by expanding accessibility. I wonder what other countries do who are unable or refuse to import their labor. Are they farther down the automated track than we are?
    I have worked on optic inspection systems that can detect size and colors which could be utilized for ripeness recognition and pick-and-place systems that can precisely install microchips on a wafer board. Can't somebody combine those technologies to automate crop harvesting?

  • Nosea Forest Grove, OR
    Sept. 16, 2013 7:47 p.m.

    I am an IC design engineer, with two engineering degrees, 16 years designing computer chips, 16 patents and more than 20 years until retirement, and I have been thrown out of work so these jobs can go to Asian workers on H1B visas. So, please spare me the "we need to bring over more high tech immigrants because they create jobs for Americans." The opposite is true -- they displace Americans to the point where they now dominate in IC design to 85 to 90% of all these positions, and, trust me, they are very biased against native citizens now that they have near total control.

    Sept. 15, 2013 1:48 p.m.

    Farmers are having trouble keeping all workers, not just Americans. The only solution is for government to enforce visas, and make visa holders stay on the farm. It's to easy for them to run off to the cities, knowing our government will do nothing about it. It's a fact that agriculture refuses to acknowledge.

    I question his numbers since he lost half of his crop to weather.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Sept. 14, 2013 11:42 p.m.

    What you said is all common sense stuff, and I agree with you, but the facts of life now days are that American's won't do these jobs. Here's some other realities to think about...

    If Americans can make more on unemployment or welfare than they can working in the fields... why would they take the job?

    IF the farmer can hire illegal aliens for less than he can hire Americans... what does he have to do to stay competitive with the other farmers who WILL hire the illegal aliens?

    The reality is... if your cherries cost twice as much as your neighbor's (because you hire Americans and the neighbor farm hires illegal aliens)... Who's going to have problems selling his cherries?

    I have a neighbor who had a family roofing business (that went out of business for the same reason). He couldn't get any bids because he couldn't compete with the guys with crews of illegal workers and he didn't want to pay his family members illegal worker wages.

    Amnesty resolves none of these problems. Temp worker program solves some of them.

  • redshirt007 tranquility base, 00
    Sept. 14, 2013 11:34 p.m.

    I just don't think farmers should be voting republican, wanting to import labor with high unemployment and taking handouts from government all at the same time.

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    Sept. 14, 2013 11:17 a.m.

    Post Script:

    Small scale farmers could sell directly to the local populace: Pick your OWN fruit!

    I'm not sure I've seen that done on cherry or peach trees (rather than tomatoes etc) but my wife assures me she has. This method of picking fruit can benefit the farmer and the consumer, as both save money. It also would help if our State Legislature finished the job that Mr Huntsman started and entirely abolish the sales tax on food. We could all buy a little more then: good for business, good for families imo.

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    Sept. 14, 2013 7:38 a.m.

    I have been reading the various views on this thread with interest and would like to summarize a few thoughts and tentative conclusions:

    I believe I will never approve of illegal immigration, and think we should support and encourage the employing of Americans for fruit picking. I think those out of work should be offered, and expected to take, those jobs if in receipt of unemployment benefits. I hope that employers in the chosen fields of those presently unemployed will see their willingness to work temporarily in less desirable jobs as a mark of integrity and industry.

    I will never respect any employer who accepts or encourages illegal immigrants as workers or supports amnesty, but Hispanics legally AND seasonally in the USA are a different matter. I still definitely think employers could work harder to make the existence of these jobs known to Americans, and perhaps pay a little above minimum wage by mutual agreement with other farmers.

    I deplore that any teenagers hired to work at fruit picking, waste fruit by using it as playful ammunition; such teenagers should be fired immediately.

    Perhaps more of us should grow and consume our own fruit and vegetables.

  • SLars Provo, UT
    Sept. 14, 2013 1:13 a.m.


    "I thought your sweet cherry crop was cut in half from frost and poor pollination? And the sour cherry crop was only 75%? That was your quote in another news article."


    The author is confused, a lack of labor, or the frost and poor pollination that he blamed in July?

    How many farmers have children, that are now adults, still working for them? A study in southern California showed that paying $20.00 an hour would raise a families yearly grocery bill $117.

    My relative (retired) and his children applied to a Georgia farm, he was told he was over qualified (ex-postal worker) and they were not babysitting his kids 9-15 years old. He wanted to teach them a lesson about working, so they could buy school clothes. They were taught a lesson, that's for sure.

  • prelax Murray, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 8:52 p.m.

    Correction, it was $295,320

  • prelax Murray, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 6:34 p.m.

    $376,879 in subsidies from 1995-2012. All of us could stand being paid when things don't work out.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Sept. 13, 2013 6:25 p.m.


    If you claim that I've posted something, please have the decency to quote me exactly.

    This is what I wrote yesterday:

    "A restaurant owner knows the law. He knows what he must pay and he knows what those workers expect to earn in tips. I don't agree that any person should rely on tips, but I do believe that leaving a tip shows apprciation for the service. I tip my barber. I tip the waiter.

    I would prefer that everyone be paid at least the minimum wage and that tips be paid for service above that which was expected."


    You totally misrepresented what I wrote yesterday just as you're misrepresenting what I wrote today.

    If the farmer cannot find people who are willing to work for what he is willing to pay, then he has two choices. He can do the work himself or he can let the fruit rot on the trees. He should never rely on the government to allow him to pay substandard wages.

    Now, is that clear enough?

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 5:44 p.m.

    @Mike Richards
    South Jordan, Utah

    There is no shortage of available workers, just a shortage of people who are willing to pay people working IN AMERICA the value of their labor.
    4:58 p.m. Sept. 13, 2013


    And yet yesterday,
    You said a legal American citizen making $2.10 an hour did not deserve to be paid minimum wage.

    I can't follow your train of thought.
    Like that old Indian saying - Whiteman speak with forked tongue.

  • prelax Murray, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 5:07 p.m.

    Back in the 60's our extended neighborhood picked cherries in Orem. It was rural then, not many jobs for young people. But in the 70's and 80's jobs opened up, and most of the kids in farm families bailed out, and took other jobs. Farmers never adjusted to the change, although the ones we picked for used shaker machines in the 60's.

    The farmers who turned to illegal labor, have found out that they don't want the work either. Lack of enforcement of work visas has allowed farm workers to go to the cities. Farmers don't need reform, they need enforcement to keep the visa workers on the farm through the season.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Sept. 13, 2013 4:58 p.m.


    The hypocrisy is not with me. I do not believe in paying immigrants sub-standard wages simply because they don't know their true value. If that farmer can't hire people to work his orchards, then their true value is more than he is paying. The free-market system would work if the government did not let people into the country to be hired at sub-standard wages just to benefit one type of business.

    Why do you tell us, from one side of your mouth, that you believe in fairness, and then from the other side of your mouth, you attack those who stand for fairness?

    If you want to let that farmer pay his pickers sub-standard wages, then pick up your picket sign and march in front of his property. Demand that all who work for him should be paid less then they are worth. That seems to be your standard.

    There is no shortage of available workers, just a shortage of people who are willing to pay people working IN AMERICA the value of their labor.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 4:28 p.m.

    @Mike Richards
    South Jordan, Utah

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

    The money that he pays to migrant workers leaves the country. It doesn't circulate around Utah County.


    Did you ever stop to think that that is precisely what Corporate America does with Communists in China -- and yet, YOU support that?

    Why the double standard?
    Why the hypocrisy?

  • Fitness Freak Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 3:33 p.m.

    Respectfully to "nonconlib" and Mr. McMullin:

    Even IF "new" amnesty legislation is passed; that won't solve the problem of more agricultural workers that are needed. The "new" americans aren't going to return to the fields/orchards.

    What has happened is that so many of the illegal trespassers have moved into construction jobs and gained such a strong skill set in their occupations, that construction and hospitality employers have had to start paying them MORE in order to convince them to stay with their company. Those employers would like a "fresh crop" of illegal immigrants so they can take their wages BACK to 5 or 6 bucks an hour.
    I can't remember the last time I heard of a farmer "busted" for employing illegal workers. It just doesn't happen so if farmers can't get their seasonal migrant workers its because the migrant workers have moved into more lucrative (and less difficult) occupations.

    Conferring "amnesty" on those already here most certainly won't solve the problems of a lack of agricultural workers. All it will do is encourage a new group of illegal immigrants to come here which, most probably, aren't going to want to work in agriculture.

  • prelax Murray, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 3:09 p.m.

    I thought your sweet cherry crop was cut in half from frost and poor pollination? And the sour cherry crop was only 75%? That was your quote in another news article.

  • RichardB Murray, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 2:48 p.m.

    With the h-2a visa being unlimited, no farmer has a reason to complain. Most of the people here illegally find better paying jobs in the cities also. It goes beyond Americans not willing to do the work, no one wants to do the work. Our agriculture needs to get off the subsidies, and use the rapidly advancing technology being developed in other countries.

    Picking cherries is not hard, it's sticky. I've worked much harder jobs in my life.

    What papers did your ads run in? I saw no picking jobs advertised.

  • Nonconlib Happy Valley, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 2:10 p.m.

    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.

  • Ultra Bob Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 1:55 p.m.

    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 Heretic Orem, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 12:13 p.m.

    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.

  • LDS Liberal Farmington, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 11:15 a.m.

    What we need is another Cesar Chavez.

  • 2 bits Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 11:07 a.m.

    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.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Sept. 13, 2013 10:46 a.m.

    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?

  • Eric Samuelsen Provo, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 10:45 a.m.

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

  • Hutterite American Fork, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 10:27 a.m.

    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.

  • Fitness Freak Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 10:24 a.m.

    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.

  • cpafred SALT LAKE CITY, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 10:10 a.m.

    @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.

  • louie Cottonwood Heights, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 9:56 a.m.

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

  • Fitness Freak Salt Lake City, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 9:41 a.m.

    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!

  • one old man Ogden, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 9:20 a.m.

    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.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    Sept. 13, 2013 8:43 a.m.

    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.

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Sept. 13, 2013 8:38 a.m.

    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)

  • Truthseeker SLO, CA
    Sept. 13, 2013 7:55 a.m.

    "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)

  • Gildas LOGAN, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 6:33 a.m.

    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.

  • Ranch Here, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 6:31 a.m.

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

  • redshirt007 tranquility base, 00
    Sept. 13, 2013 12:19 a.m.

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

  • Tulip West Jordan, UT
    Sept. 13, 2013 12:14 a.m.

    So bring in workers...legally.