:: Thursday, April 27, 2006 ::

This Land is Our Land

Some sections of US big business are not too happy with the attacks on immigrants rights. They rely on cheap immigrant labour to make a profit and the legal status is beside the point. The disruptions to their profits caused by strikes and protests are also a cause for concern for them. Some employers are voluntarily closing on Monday as workers are set to walk out anyway. Immigrant workers in the US are beginning to see their power as workers, a powerful shift in consciousness.

Reuters: "World Perspectives, an agricultural consulting firm, estimated that 40 percent of all immigrants in the United States work in agriculture. Of that, 25 to 75 percent of U.S. farm laborers are 'fraudulently documented,' it says.

From crop production to grain and oilseed processing to turf farms, horticulture and lawn services, Hispanic labor -- legal and illegal -- permeates the U.S. countryside.

A recent study by the American Farm Bureau Federation said a crackdown on illegal immigrant labor could cause production losses in U.S. agriculture of $5 billion to $9 billion in the first one to three years and up to $12 billion over four or more years.

Most of the immediate effects would be seen in the fruit and vegetable sector but problems would be felt everywhere in the crop and animal-feeding sectors, notably in the Midwest.

'It's not just a fruit-and-vegetable California problem. This affects anyone who owns the machines, custom harvests -- virtually these jobs are a 100 percent migrant work force,' said Austin Perez, policy director for the AFB.

'You find the highest illegal immigration counties are now in the Midwest,' Perez added.

AFB says that despite heavy use of machines to plant and harvest the largest U.S. crops -- corn, soybeans and wheat -- Midwestern farmers often rely on cheap labor to fill positions that family members once performed.

The size, concentration and tight margins of industrial farm production have fueled a continuous demand for cheap labor to keep the pipeline running.

Dairy operations from a few hundred to many thousands of cows are round-the-clock milking and feeding jobs. Massive hog and poultry barns now housing thousands of animals in close quarters also require constant labor and monitoring in what can be harsh, unsanitary and dangerous conditions.

So 'raids' by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) can be disruptive, analysts said.

'A few years ago INS did a raid in Nebraska and it messed up the cattle market. It drove live cattle prices lower -- $1.50 to $2 per hundredweight because there weren't enough employees in packing plants to run the cattle through,' said World Perspectives analyst Dave Juday."

:: Alister | 10:36 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | |


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