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Agriculture Discussion: Washington state's apple conundrum: A pie with many thumbs in it.

In Washington state, we are up to our necks in agriculture, which spells trouble. We have had it up to here, from Apples to Immigration, from Tea Party to the Coffee clan.

The trouble with apples (in fact, with many kinds of fruits and veggies), is that they must be picked.

Today's Tri City Herald ran a story declaring an emergency caused by and early, bumper crop and a shortage of pickers. We see some version of this story here in the Columbia Basin almost every summer or fall, but apparently the problem is exacerbated this time by the coincidental confluence of Tea Party politics, the abundance of nature, and the wily ways of the so-called "laws" of supply and demand.

I posted the following comment (with some changes made here) on my Facebook page:

The American Way.
Immigration is way down. Tea Party should be happy: Orchard owners here in Washington probably are NOT.
An early and abundant crop is ripe and bulging at Washington orchards this year, but nobody seems to want to pick the fruit.
Note that this is an example of supply-and-demand not working.
IMO: Apple growers should be able to earn a living and still pay living wages, but politics may be preventing some of that.

Several friends "Liked" the page and there was some discussion, which was getting too unwieldy for my Facebook page. So here we are.

First, a rehash 
[Re: MD below: MD is not necessarily a reference to this person's work qualifications. Just the person's handle.]

Friend MD -- Now if out-of-work non-immigrants showed up for the work many wouldn't be paid a legal wage. Go figure.

Friend NW --What?

Me, Frank -- I don't want to come across as anti-apple grower either. American apple growers as well as the pickers are in tight spots, but we don't have a system that rewards either one or the other adequately. There is not a level playing field. This is hard, gr...See More

Me, Frank -- Let me take a guess: MD may be referring to the fact that much of this work is done by "piecework." It takes strong, young bodies to do this work, and then sometimes it is barely-humanly possible. Some people keep doing this as ...See

Friend MD -- If people were paid a real wage for the work instead of the cheat wages people are paid for the work things would be different. I worked fruit harvest when I was a teen in Hermiston and it was interesting how people were paid. I worked many agricultu...See More

Friend MD -- We, the American public, moan and groan about the prices of food but in reality if we actually didn't already subsidize all of these farms with our taxes, if they truly did pay people correctly we would need to learn some things about what we consume and we would darn sure be less likely to waste it.
2 hrs · Unlike · 1

Frank Ellsworth Lockwood Melanie Davis -- Yes, one of the heartbreaking things that happens: I had a student who, incidentally, became Valedictorian of his graduating class in Umatilla high school, went out and worked on, I think it was on a farm, and worked for two weeks and ...See More
2 hrs · Like · 1

Melanie Davis Yeah and those farmers are absolutely complicit, they know the deal that is going on. Trust me they know.
2 hrs · Unlike · 1

Me, Frank  -- Well, in the past, our food has been subsidized by the people who could least afford it: It has been subsidized by migrant laborers who are a shadow labor force that falls beneath the radar of many of the laws meant to protect workers!

Me, Frank  -- Well, many of the smaller farmers are caught between the rock and the hard place too, as their farms are often marginally profitable. I am not speaking of the factory farms and huge agribusinesses now.

Friend MD -- What many people refuse to see is that our government trade policies created this issue in the first place. It is truly atrocious.

Friend MD -- And if those small farms actually tried to appeal to the public en masse and reached out to make this stop it wouldn't be so bad. The mega farms have done so much damage.

Me, Frank Ellsworth Lockwood Buy organic! And buy local products.

Friend MD -- We need to gravitate back to small communities again and becoming more self defining and self sufficient. The big scheme has done us all harm and the smaller communities when they try to stick local it [upsets] the big box corporations ... so badly, that is why they are going after small farmers (organic or not). The fight is ugly but the people need to wake up or die in their sleep.

Friend MD -- The workers are there if the smaller farms would but speak to their communities instead of trying to catch up and try to compete with the big stuff. If they stop competing they would find better allies.

Me, Frank -- I don't know what you mean exactly by "putting the word out to their communities." Usually every year I see ads in Craigslist calling for workers, and today there was a front page story in the newspaper about it. What else are you saying that the farmers should do?

Me, Frank -- Even though I am appalled at many of the practices of factory farms, I would not call for an immediate and abrupt change to do away with them. Besides the fact that this is not possible all at once, it would be disastrous: If we could somehow, miraculously accomplish it, many people would go hungry and others might starve as a result.

Friend MD --  When I say this stuff. I mean the communities and the farmers of the communities shouldn't be waiting until it is at DEFCON 1 level of need. It seems issues like this become major issues when it is almost too late for some people to respond to it. If there had been open dialogue within the communities that farmers have actively reaching out then the issue is almost always resolved. Craigslist adverts are some of the worst ways to do hiring by the way. Half the time you are dealing with minimal information and no to low communication. That is as bad as a half hearted attempt. As to the big mega farms ending it should happen gradually but it should at least START. Nobody wants to talk about it, nobody wants to get the communities working together. Ask yourself why we are sending most of our agricultural harvest overseas? It isn't going to the people of the americas, it is going overseas and vice versa why are we getting food shipped from China to the US? Food like farmed fish, poultry etc. They need to feed their own people first. Just like it needs to happen here locally. We have let big corps create this monster and we are all unhealthier for it.

Okay, from this point on I am going to try to get people to move their comments over to this page, as my Facebook page does not seem like an appropriate place for a discussion group.  (We'll see if that happens. If nothing happens I will probably  delete this post eventually.)

#apples #growers #pickers  #labor #supplyanddemand #discussion


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