The Los Angeles Times series on Mexican farm workers has concluded, but it is safe to say that the four-part coverage will continue to influence public perceptions and industry actions for some time to come.

 

The coverage includes:

Faces of Mexican farm labor

Children harvest crops and sacrifice dreams in Mexico’s fields 

Company stores trap Mexican farm workers in a cycle of debt

Desperate workers on a Mexican meaga-farm: They treated us like slaves

Life in a labor camp 

Hardship on Mexico’s farms, a bounty for U.S. tables

Last week I visited with industry veteran Dick Spezzano about the series.

Spezzano, president of Monrovia, Calif.-based Spezzano Consulting said the Times coverage is suggesting that U.S. buyers should do more to insist that no farm workers are exploited, and he said that is hard for any retail organization to do.

“Typically you come up with your social responsibility edict to your growers and your legal department sends it out and the growers sign it and send it back,” he said. There may be an occasional spot check, but he said conducting spot checks in growing regions in Mexico and other foreign countries is not easy, he said.

“Growers will take you to their most pristine operations so you are not roaming around on your own down there, and you wouldn’t want to roam around on your own in the ag areas,” he said.

Spezzano said American supermarket operators do make a serious attempt on social responsibility in other countries, especially Mexico. He said a possible take away from the series on farm labor in Mexico is that U.S. retailers will go back to their growers and increase spot checks. Retailers also may ask some of the food safety companies they work with to conduct spot check on farm labor conditions.

Ultimately, the government of Mexico must be responsible that exploitation of workers does not occur, Spezzano said.

 The words and images that the LA Times coverage gave readers – and the buying community – were eye-opening and at times, heart-breaking. How they may contribute to changing the stark reality of the migrant Mexican farm worker is hard to guess.