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A time to harvest gratitude for farmers

Ruben Navarrette Jr. on

You're a hostage to the weather, blackmailed by labor unions, and subject to the whims of the market. You get up early to tend the crops, and stay up late doing the books. You worry about having enough water and enough workers.

You have to deal with insects one minute and politicians the next; one is a parasitic menace with an insatiable appetite that can wipe out a harvest because it usurps resources and only cares about its own survival. Then you have the bugs.

You are often played for a sucker by elected officials who see you as an ATM. Democrats take your money and promise to get you more water; Republicans take your money and promise you a dependable workforce. Neither delivers.

You inherit a farm from your father and spend your whole life caring for it with blood, sweat and tears -- only to have your own kids come back from college one day and announce that they don't want to be in the family business. Time to sell.

I don't speak for farmers. But, because I listen carefully when they speak to me, I can tell you there are five things they want you to know.

-- First, even if our national pride won't let us admit it, Americans are not going to do these jobs. Not ever. Most millennials would rather work for Apple in Silicon Valley than go pick apples in the Yakima Valley.

-- Second, farm work isn't unskilled labor. Lawmakers who think that America should admit only "skilled" immigrants need to spend a few hours in the fields where human beings work with the speed of machines but with more precision.

-- Third, speaking of machines, while it may be convenient for restrictionists to dream about robots replacing farmworkers, that won't happen. Many crops still need to be picked by hand. Besides, anything with an "on" and "off" switch needs to be tended to by people.

 

-- Fourth, while it's easy for politicians to kick the immigration reform can down the road, farmers don't have the luxury of waiting 10 or 12 years to bring in their crops. They need a solution now.

-- And fifth, farmers aren't part of the "elites" who are supposedly keeping down the working-class. Often, the workers decide the wages that they're willing to work for. If they don't get that price, they'll go up the road to the next "Help Wanted" sign.

The populists are way off track. Farmers aren't the problem. And, out here in the real world, they're tired of being the scapegoats while the rest of America refuses to accept its aversion to hard work.

An aversion that explains why there are so many "Help Wanted" signs in the first place.

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Ruben Navarrette's email address is ruben@rubennavarrette.com.

(c) 2017, The Washington Post Writers Group

 

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