My View From The Country

Ag Has A Dog In The Immigration Reform Hunt

The immigration problem isn’t going away. In fact, it’s growing in magnitude and scope daily.

Immigration reform and agriculture is a topic I feel qualified to write about. That’s because my opinion on the subject, like that of most folks, is ever-evolving. In fact, my position is similar to that of agriculture in general, which truly doesn’t have a fixed position on immigration reform.

That’s not to say there isn’t some broad agreement on immigration among everyone. After all, we all know the current system is broken and, if not corrected, will only continue to grow much worse. But it’s an issue that’s important to agriculture because agriculture employs a high percentage of immigrant labor, either as seasonal or full time employees. In fact, labor and labor availability tend to be among the top five concerns among most folks in the livestock industry in particular.

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Yes, I think most everyone holds the contrasting views that immigration is a good thing, but illegal immigration is a problem. Immigrants tend to fill two types of positions – highly skilled technical positions or lower-paid jobs that are difficult to fill. We need both, but we also need a system to manage it.

This week, a coalition of CEOs sent a letter to Congress trying to spur it into action on the issue. They’re asking for improved border security, better enforcement of current laws, and better methods to verify workers and worker eligibility.

They also want legal ways for workers to enter and work in the U.S. They want to hire Americans first, but also want an avenue to hire foreign workers when they can’t find American workers.

It’s ironic that the number of job openings increased yet again last month, at the same time that the percentage of employable Americans continues to fall to historically low levels. Such record unemployment and unfilled jobs point to larger societal problems that need to be addressed.

The immigration problem isn’t going away. In fact, it’s growing in magnitude and scope daily. After witnessing how our elected leaders have lacked the courage to rein in entitlement spending, I don’t hold much hope that they will tackle this problem, either. Eventually, that lack of action will allow both issues to consume us.

Immigration reform is a political land mine. Each political party is vying for the growing Hispanic vote, while walking the high wire of not angering middle-class America, which is bearing the brunt of the failure of our current immigration system.

In fact, the political realities of immigration reform are far more difficult to navigate than immigration reform itself. Political parties and politicians are convinced that immigration reform can easily become political suicide. Sadly, they’re right. Agriculture has a dog in this hunt, and it’s time we step forward and become part of the solution. In 20 years, we’ll have much fewer and less desirable options.

The opinions of Troy Marshall are not necessarily those of or the Penton Farm Progress Group.


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Discuss this Blog Entry 5

on Jun 13, 2014

My husband is a plumber. He used to get overtime in summer and 40 hours in winter. He didn't command a high per hour salary and that allowed us to catch up on bills during the summer. Then came all the illegal aliens working for nothing under the table. He was asked to train them and then he no longer got overtime in summer. When the market tanked he was one of the last employees laid off but the cheap immigrant labor still worked. As an older employee he has gone to job applications and there was standing room only. I do hope everyone gets what they want for their businesses however, if the US citizens can't get a job we won't be able to buy your product. Excuse me if I have 0 sympathy for your labor plight. Sometimes talking about how you MUST have immigrant workers is just code for we don't want to pay a citizen a living wage.

Dr Jimmy T (Gunny) LaBaume (not verified)
on Jun 17, 2014

Although, as an advocate for “no borders,” I believe very little that appears in this article. But, it makes for a good opportunity to tell a little historical story and introduce some economic law.

I was running ranches in Texas long before the “law” made it illegal for the rancher to hire “mojados” (Spanish slang for “Wetback”). It was also during a time when the uS Border Patrol was a shell of its current self and cooperated with ranchers instead of bullying them as they do now. It was a while before the failed “war on drugs” went totally crazy and law enforcement became militarized in response (actually the directions of cause and effect are not clear). It was a much better and more peaceful day.

In those days it was not uncommon for ranchers to go to town and leave the doors of their homes unlocked. Most would leave a box of canned goods, a can opener and a spoon on the porch and come home to an empty can and a dirty spoon with nothing else having been touched. Some wayward (and grateful) “mojado” had stopped for lunch along his long, hot, dry trek to his “regular” employer’s ranch.

What happened? As always, government attempted to bend the natural law and failed. It is the iron clad law of the land–labor will ALWAYS move from low wage areas to high wage areas and capital will ALWAYS move from high wage areas to low wage areas.

This will ALWAYS be true, no matter what our controllers try to do to stop it. Not only is it inevitable, it is a tremendous, wasteful, unnecessary squandering of scarce resources and, thus, makes all of society on both sides of the border worse off.

Fire the Border Guards so they can get real jobs, defined as jobs that produce things on which people would be willing to spend their hard earned money. Repeal the welfare state in its entirety. And announce, “We have jobs. Y’all come.”

If I were King of Mexico, I would also fire all my border guards and do away with any and all laws and regulations that, in any way, hamper free markets. I’d put the country on a gold and silver bi-metallic monetary standard. Then I’d announce, “We have an honest, hard working labor force that needs jobs. Y’all come and bring your capital.” Then I would retire, set back and watch that “giant sucking sound” reverse itself. — jtl, 419

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on Jun 18, 2014

Dr. LaBaume will like my aphorism: "When people and goods and money flow freely across borders, Armies do not."
The competing protectionist market for goods and jobs has been fed in the USA by having a massive 'common market' of our own with 'free trade' between the states. Now having to transition to 'free trade' in a 'global market' causes some real dislocations, like Maggie B's husband losing summer overtime to lower wage competition.

John R. Dykers, Jr (not verified)
on Jun 18, 2014

Watch Dave Brat in the 7th congressional district in Virginia. Let's see what he does on this matter.

on Jul 21, 2014

John R. Dykers, JR He didn't just lose summer overtime. He lost all employment. We are surviving on my work alone. I go into new homes all the time and the people working can't answer my simple questions because they don't speak the language. Mexico should just apply for statehood. The other loser in this fiasco is the American public. We are paying for their schooling, food stamps, health care and they are contributing nothing in return. They make a few bucks extra for the builder or farmer paying them under the table and avoiding FDIC matching funds but other than that they are a drain on society and they harm the weakest Americans - those in low paying jobs. There's nothing cool about it

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What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contributor Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.


Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

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