Herd About It?
By Ana Grarian
We have been told over and over that we need migrant laborers because they do the jobs that Americans won’t do.Now I can only comment on livestock farming because it is the only thing with which I have personal experience. In the 1970’s when I first moved into Central NY State, all livestock farming (dairy, beef, hog, poultry) was done by local people. Most of the work was done by the folks who owned the farm. There might be one or two local folks who were hired on a farm as year round help. High school students were hired during the summer to help put up hay and silage. Wages were not high but were often augmented by access to farm products (milk, eggs, beef) and sometimes housing was provided. Living expenses were lower in rural areas too.
Here’s an interesting quote from the government folks of the time who were developing farm policy.
The only way I know to get toothpaste out of a tube is to squeeze, and the only way to get people out of agriculture is likewise to squeeze agriculture. If the toothpaste is thin, you don’t have to squeeze very hard; on the other hand, if the toothpaste is thick, you have to put real pressure on it. If you can’t get people out of agriculture easily, you are going to have to do farmers severe injustice in order to solve the problem of allocation.
Kenneth E. Boulding, Department of Economics, University of Michigan, Member of the Research Advisory Board for the Committee for Economic Development’s 1962 Study “An Adaptive Program for Agriculture.”
Hmmmm….Does this sound like there was a lack of people willing to do farm work? Or is it just that there was a lack of people who would do it as cheaply as migrant laborers that also face expulsion if they raise any objections.
The people who were on these committees were not farm people. They were representatives of big business. Petrochemical companies (fuel, pesticides, fertilizers), food manufacturers like Campbells, Ford Motor Co., bankers and insurance companies. None of them the paste to be squeezed out of the tube. The sqeezers not the squeezees.
And why did they want to push people out of farming? To provide cheap labor for factories. Jobs they said would give a “better way of life” to those who moved. If those really provided a better life would farmers need to be forced into them?
It has been said that we need to keep food prices cheap so that everyone can afford it. Yet have we kept food cheap? Have we kept healthy food affordable? We are spending money on bubbly sugar water and other over sugared foods, chemically enhanced (if you call overly strong fake flavoring enhanced) chips, cereals etc. Then we buy diet products with barely tolerable flavors to overcome the obesity, diabetes, heart disease that these fake foods cause.
Let’s get real. Eat real. Have you ever tasted food right out of the garden? A cucumber that eats like a fresh fall apple, crisp and tasty. A tomato warm and fresh off the vine? Fresh raw brussel sprouts that feel like your eating the best treat of your life? Milk with body, cold and sweet. Meat that doesn’t need heavy sauces to give it great flavor. Food that isn’t covered with wax, ripened in cold storage, laden with hormones or pesticides.
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.
from “Concord Hymn,” Ralph Waldo Emerson
American farmers in the English colonies were expected to produce for the colonizers. They endured low prices, inadequate credit, high taxes, large debts, and the dumping of excess English foodstuffs on their local market. Agrarian insurrections began in 1676 and culminated in the “Great Rebellion” in New York in 1766. British troops routed the insurgent farmers.Landlords evicted them and destroyed their property. Emerson’s stanza honors the moment when the people who worked the land in seed and harvest stood up to the most powerful political, economic and military power in the world.
For more on this topic see 12/19/03 CommonDreams.org columnby Jody Aliesan