While the July 26 article “N.C. wary of possible farm labor shortage,” in the Raleigh News & Observer, included statistics and testimonies detailing our allegedly pending shortage of farm laborers, it left unstated the obvious conclusion: we can’t have our cake and eat it too. Or in this case, we can’t have our fresh produce and eat it too.
We can’t impose harsher immigration policies and expect to have an adequate labor force for our current industrial low-wage agricultural system. We, as consumers, can’t continue to spend less on food than any other nation in the world while agribusiness rakes in huge profits. And now some are demonizing and criminalizing immigrant workers. Something’s got to give.
The article stopped short of suggesting sustainable and sensible reform. Instead of punishing workers by enacting tough immigration laws or finding yet another vulnerable population to exploit, maybe the solution is to improve conditions for those who harvest our food. We need to stop seeing the people who pick the food we enjoy everyday as dispensable “hands.” Instead, let’s recognize farmworkers as essential members of our society who make our lives possible with the food they put on our tables.
Daryn Lane, Intern
Student Action with Farmworkers and the North Carolina Council of Churches