Guest comment from Jim Allen, president of the New York Apple Association, Fishers, N.Y. This column originally appeared in the November issue of The Core Report, newspaper of the New York Apple Association.
Gotta Be Heard!
By Jim Allen
How many years have we said, “Unless you fix immigration, our apples will not be picked” and how many years have we picked the crop?
How many trips to Washington and how many testimonials have been made, with the same message, without AgJOBs or a workable Ag Labor Reform bill, our US food supply will be imported!” How many harvest seasons have been completed, not without difficulties, but in the end, they were completed?
Each year I when I return to a Congressional office, I am always asked “did the labor shortage that you talked about last year happen? “Did you get your apples picked?” I have always been able to say, “Yes, but……!
As I sit here, right now, I am afraid that I will have to answer, “No, they did not all get picked” The old saying, “The Blood is not deep enough on the bar room floor” seems to be more realistic than ever, this year. In other words, we are losing the fight to gain the support and the understanding from our government on the seriousness of the farm labor problem, coast to coast!
From the small family orchard in Western New York , that may only need less than a dozen pickers, to the largest of operations in Washington, requiring over a 1000, workers, the Sign in the front yard reads the same, “Pickers needed!” We all know to well that our DC leadership works on a reactive mode only, and than over-reacts to a situation after it comes to fruition. Immigration is the Poster Child for this procedure! So, we have gone from AgJOBs, to the Emergency Farm Labor Bill, to the Dream Act, as well as countless number of amendments that couldn’t get attached to a farm wagon, to what we have now. Not a DAMN thing! ( Unless you call the H2A program workable).
US Agriculture has now been delegated down from actual sponsored job reform bills, to a hope and a prayer that we get something glued to an E-Verify provision that may or may not ever get to the House floor! What the HECK is wrong with our society and our ruling body?
Over the years, many of you have spent your time and your money to speak up. God knows that those that work on your behalf, have done the same, and will continue. Each year we are told, that, when crops are not harvested, then maybe someone will do something.
The time is now. Ask a Georgian or Alabama farmer how the E-Verify are working for them? Ask Washington State, if they will ever pick the entire apple crop this year and then ask how fast the blood is rising on the floor? Share this with everyone that you know, and most of all, share this with those that have been elected to lead, not follow!