Monday, December 26, 2005

Pombo coming home to work the farm?

Sunday's Stockton Record had a nicely crafted article by Reed Fujii about the coming prostpects for farm labor in the San Joaquin Valley. The local quotes get right to the point. There is a great deal of concern about possible future shortages and the effect that the Sensenbrenner Immigration bill will have.
Mark Bacchetti, a Tracy grower and vegetable packer, said currently he's having no problem finding workers to pack sweet corn coming from southern growing regions.

"This season was fine," he said, but predicted, "I think it's going to be (a problem) in the next few years unless they do something."

Lodi grape grower Bob Lauchland said he saw signs of a tight labor market during the fall harvest.

"Some workers left the area for other crops and the potential for higher wages," he said in an e-mail. "I understand many came back to harvest grapes when prospects for other crops declined."

Lauchland, president of the Lodi District Grape Growers Association, also expressed concern about the future labor supply, referring in particular to the border security bill approved Dec. 16 by the U.S. House of Representatives that would increase penalties for employing illegal immigrantsand make illegal immigration a federal crime, threatening an important source of farm workers.

"A perfect example is the proposed immigration reform bill, which seems to place the burden of policing our borders upon employers," he said. "With thin margins, the threat of a severe fine for employing a person who provides phony documentation can be the final straw that takes a labor contractor out of business and takes labor resources away from growers."

At this point, you would think that a Congressman who makes his family ranch part of his campaign image and who has strong support from Big Agriculture would be looking to find the proper fix to this problem. After all, his party's president is asking for both stronger border enforcement AND a guest worker program. But not Mr. Pombo. He came straight out in support of the Sensenbrenner bill and made no strong move for any guest worker provisions. Even the Record noted this, though they allow Pombo an out.

After voting to send the bill, HR 1147, onto the U.S. Senate, Pombo said, "Today we strengthened our commitment to our citizens. We've taken the necessary steps to ensure protection from the daily threats of terrorists."

In an e-mail last week, Pombo said he expected additional legislation to address the labor issue:

"This is a first step in the right direction, and I expect more proposals, including temporary worker provisions, will come up next year."
Below is a partial list of Pombo's Agricultural Supporters. Did they really expect him to vote this way? As it stands, there is no out and were the Sensenbrenner bill to pass the Senate, farm labor will be scarce and a lot more expensive. Even if you are not a farmer, you care, because that expense will show up in the grocery store for us all.

American Meat Institute PAC
Blue Diamond Growers PAC
California Association of Winegrape Growers PAC
California Canning Peach Association PAC
California Dairies Federal PAC
Great Lakes Sugarbeet Growers PAC
Ice Cream, Milk and Cheese PAC
Land'o'Lakes Inc. PAC
Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative PAC
National Council of Farmers Cooperatives/COOP PAC
Sun-maid Growers of California PAC
Sunkist Growers Inc. PAC
United Egg Association EGGPAC
Western Peanut Growers PAC
Western United Dairymen PAC
Wine Institute PAC
Wine America PAC


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