Stephen Colbert is not the first name I would consider to be an advocate for the produce industry, but there he was grandstanding on Capitol Hill drawing attention to the issue of immigrant labor.

Colbert's snark makes a point on labor reform

Chuck Robinson
Media Watch


He attended the U.S. House subcommittee hearing on immigrant farm labor on Sept. 24.

He expressed concern for American farms being too dependent on immigrant labor.

“Now the obvious answer is for all of us to stop eating fruits and vegetables,” he testified. “And if you look at the recent obesity statistics, you’ll see that many Americans have already started.”

His appearance on Capitol Hill came the day after a video ran on his Comedy Central program “The Colbert Report,” showing him packing corn and picking green beans.

So many times in The Packer’s shipping profiles and special sections produce industry representatives have said these jobs are ones non-Hispanics refuse to do. Here a comedian playing a conservative pundit drives the point home. His one-day experience taught him why so few U.S. citizens were clamoring to be field workers, but that leaves the problem of getting crops from field to grocery stores.

“Normally, I would leave this to the invisible hand of the market, but the invisible hand of the market has already moved over 84,000 acres of production and over 22,000 farm jobs to Mexico and shut down over a million acres of U.S. farm land due to lack of available labor. Because apparently, even the invisible hand doesn’t want to pick beans,” Colbert testified.

It has been widely reported that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., thought Colbert’s schtick was “embarrassing.” Maybe Hoyer should get something done on the issue. He’s been in the House for 30 years.

AgJobs legislation, which would streamline migrant labor regulations and get more laborers enrolled in the H-2A program, has languished for a decade. It would address many of the problems Colbert briefly outlined in his congressional performance.

“Maybe we could offer more visas to the immigrants who, let’s face it, will probably be doing these jobs anyway,” Colbert said.

One way to get over being embarrassed, good representatives and senators, would be to get something done.

E-mail crobinson@thepacker.com

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