Category Archives: Agriculture

February 14, 2021

No Americans Wanted: Rural Employers Seek More Visa Workers from Amnesty Deal

Robots are replacing unskilled migrants in American farm jobs, but farmers still want skilled migrants to operate the robots, says the president of a major farm advocacy group.

“While advances in robotics have replaced some farm jobs, we need skilled employees to manage that equipment,” said Zippy Duvall, the president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. In a February 3 post on the groups’ website, he wrote:

U.S. agriculture needs a flexible guest-worker program that allows contract and at-will employment options that work for both seasonal and year-round needs on the farm. We also need to make sure wage requirements take into account the economic conditions of the agriculture industry and enable farms to remain viable.

The “guest worker” program cited by Duvall refers to the H-2A program. Democrats are signaling they are will expand it — if farmers persuade GOP legislators to be OK on an amnesty to lock in Democratic political and economic dominance for many years.


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November 22, 2020

‘Justice’ bill would transfer up to 32 million acres to Black farmers

The 32 million acres is nearly seven times the 4.7 million acres now in black farms.

Black-owned farmland could expand sevenfold under a bill filed by three Democratic senators on Thursday to reverse decades of discriminatory practices by the Agriculture Department, sometimes called “the last plantation.” The Justice for Black Farmers Act would enable Black farmers to acquire up to 160 acres apiece at no charge through a USDA system of land grants.

Under the bill, an Equity Commission would study the legacy of discrimination at the USDA and suggest reforms that could reach the farmer-elected county committees that help guide operations at local USDA offices. An independent board would hear appeals of civil rights complaints decided by USDA officials.

At their peak, in 1920, there were 925,708 Black farmers, accounting for 17%, or about one-sixth, of U.S. farmers. A century later, according to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, there were 35,470 farms with Black producers — just 1.7% of the U.S. total. The government agreed in the so-called Pigford settlements of 1999 and 2010 to compensate Black farmers who were harmed by discriminatory practices, such as the denial of USDA loans and slow handling of civil rights complaints.


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December 27, 2017

Profs: Farmers’ markets cause ‘environmental gentrification’

Two San Diego State University professors contributed a chapter to a new anthology arguing that farmers’ markets are “insidious” “white spaces where the food consumption habits of white people are normalized.” While farmers’ markets are often established as a way of fighting “food deserts” in low-income areas, the professors complain that 44 percent of San Diego farmers’ markets are located in census tracts with high levels of gentrification.

Two San Diego State University (SDSU) professors recently criticized farmers’ markets for being “white spaces” that contribute to the oppression of minorities.

Pascale Joassart-Marcelli and Fernando J Bosco, two geography professors at SDSU, criticized the “whiteness of farmers’ markets” in a chapter for Just Green Enough, a new anthology published by Routledge in December.

The anthology, which features contributions from a variety of professors, aims to highlight the harms of “environmental gentrification,” a process in which “environmental improvements lead to…the displacement of long-term residents.”

Farmers’ markets are one such environmental improvement that can lead to gentrification, Bosco and Joassart-Marcelli argue, saying farmers’ markets are “exclusionary” since locals may not be able to “afford the food and/or feel excluded from these new spaces.”


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June 25, 2017

Donald Trump Vows to Protect Legacy of Family Farms in America

“American farmers and ranchers are the best — absolute best at what they do,” he said. “And they can compete anywhere if they are given a level playing field.”

President Donald Trump celebrated farmers in Iowa on Wednesday, vowing to help protect the legacy of American farms.

“Family farmers are the backbone of America, and my administration will always support the farmer,” Trump said during a speech in Iowa this week.

The president traveled to Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to highlight new farming technology.

“I’m not a farmer, but I’d be very happy to be one,” Trump said. “It’s a very beautiful world to me, and it’s a truly noble American profession.”

He recalled a quote from George Washington saying that he would “rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.”

“We understand that, especially after I’ve spent all this time in Washington,” Trump said.

Speaking in front of a Case and a John Deere tractor, Trump spoke about the importance of fair trade for their products.


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March 25, 2016

Farmer: Obama Lied to Me About Water, Drought

A Central Valley farmer with whom President Obama met and posed for photo-ops in 2014 is slamming the White House’s new water plan, saying he was misled about Obama’s intention to listen to farmers’ demands for water.

“I did have a sense of hope and he could have helped us,” Joel Del Bosque told local ABC News affiliate KFSN 30. “My focus was just telling him what we do we grow food for the country and we can’t do it without water.”

Instead, however, President Obama’s eight-page “executive action” plan on water, released Tuesday, says nothing at all about increasing farmers’ access to water. Instead, it calls for data collection, communication by federal agencies, new research, and papers — in other words, more bureaucratic activity, rather than more water storage or water allocations.

In observance of World Water Day on Tuesday, the White House convened what was billed as a “first-of-its-kind” summit on water. The meeting, which the Fresno Bee reports was attended by California Democrats including Rep. Jerry McNerney and Rep. Jared Huffman, focused on water conservation — but did not address the fact that the federal government prioritizes the endangered delta smelt fish over the needs of farmers, often flushing out hundreds of thousands of acre-feet to sea.

California’s Republicans, who back a water bill that is stuck in the U.S. Senate, did not attend.


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December 24, 2015

Saudi Hay Farm In Arizona Tests State’s Supply Of Groundwater

The idea that another country would come and essentially export your water via crops just wasn’t really around 30, 40 years ago. And so the laws that are in place are really inadequate for dealing with this new trend.

Outside of Phoenix, in the scorching Arizona desert, sits a farm that Saudi Arabia’s largest dairy uses to make hay for cows back home.

That dairy company, named Almarai, bought the farm last year and has planted thousands of acres of groundwater-guzzling alfalfa to make that hay. Saudi Arabia can’t grow its own hay anymore because those crops drained its own ancient aquifer.

Reporter Nathan Halverson tells NPR’s Renee Montagne that Almarai bought about 15 square miles in the Arizona desert.

“They got about 15 water wells when they purchased the property. Now, each one of those wells can pump about 1.5 billion gallons of water. It’s an incredible amount of water they’re going to be drawing up from that aquifer underground,” Halverson says.

The land in question had previously been under cultivation for corn, cotton and other crops, including smaller amounts of alfalfa for hay, he tells The Salt. Halverson’s sources told him that the farm is now consuming significantly more water, since alfalfa is a particularly thirsty crop.


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April 14, 2015

The Next Crime Wave in Farm Country: Stealing Water

The Madera County Task Force also plans to educate farmers about the best kinds of fences and tank enclosures to keep out water thieves.

Madera County sits smack in the middle of the state, and it’s mostly farms. As in many parts of the Valley, wells have gone dry here and water prices have soared. Thieves, who’ve been increasingly targeting rural farms, are starting to understand that anything water-related is a potential bonanza.

“They’re taking the water hoses, taking the copper wiring,” says the county’s District Attorney, David Linn. “We’ve even had instances where they’ve come in and stolen the water pumps from the farmers.”

Linn has recently launched a new task force so rural residents and farmers can reach a deputy district attorney 24-7 to report crime, including illegal well drilling.

Linn says a hypothetical call might be, “You know over the past two weeks, the water flow on my kitchen sink has continued to decrease. I notice there’s a couple of big drill rigs across the road, looks like they’re very active.”

An investigator could come out and talk with the well driller to make sure they’re drilling where they should be.


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April 3, 2015

California drought: Why farmers are ‘exporting water’ to China

While historic winter storms have battered much of the US, California is suffering its worst drought on record. So why is America’s most valuable farming state using billions of gallons of water to grow hay – specifically alfalfa – which is then shipped to China?

The reservoirs of California are just a fraction of capacity amid the worst drought in the state’s history.

“This should be like Eden right now,” farmer John Dofflemyer says, looking out over a brutally dry, brown valley as his remaining cows feed on the hay he’s had to buy in to keep them healthy.

In the dried-up fields of California’s Central Valley, farmers like Dofflemyer are selling their cattle. Others have to choose which crops get the scarce irrigation water and which will wither.

“These dry times, this drought, has a far-reaching impact well beyond California,” he said as the cattle fell in line behind his small tractor following the single hay bale on the back.

“We have never seen anything like this before – it’s new ground for everybody.”

California is the biggest agricultural state in the US – half the nation’s fruit and vegetables are grown here.

Farmers are calling for urgent help, people in cities are being told to conserve water and the governor is warning of record drought.

But at the other end of the state the water is flowing as the sprinklers are making it rain in at least one part of southern California.

The farmers are making hay while the year-round sun shines, and they are exporting cattle-feed to China.


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March 27, 2015

Mexican farmworkers strike as millions of dollars worth of crops rot (Video)

“If the fields continue without a workforce, the harvests will be lost and that will affect everyone who depends on this part of the economy,” Baja California Gov. Francisco Vega’s office said in a statement.

More than 50,000 Mexican farmworkers are striking in Baja California, violently demonstrating against low pay, abuses and poor working conditions. As millions of dollars worth of crops rot in the fields, protest leaders are set to meet with growers.

Farmworkers are burning tires and throwing rocks in Baja, an agricultural border state that supplies millions of dollars worth of tomatoes, strawberries and other produce to the US. Hundreds of protesters have blocked the Transpeninsular Highway, the main north-south highway, on and off as the strike has spread across the state, the Associated Press reported.

Demonstrators are demanding healthcare, overtime pay, days off, water, breaks, an end to arbitrary firings and abuse ? especially sexual abuse ? by field bosses, and for wages to be raised to about $20 a day. Currently, most farmworkers earn $8-10 for a full day of labor spent stooped over the crops in hot-house farms.


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March 16, 2015

California’s Man-Made Drought

The green war against San Joaquin Valley farmers.

California has a new endangered species on its hands in the San Joaquin Valley—farmers. Thanks to environmental regulations designed to protect the likes of the three-inch long delta smelt, one of America’s premier agricultural regions is suffering in a drought made worse by federal regulations.

The state’s water emergency is unfolding thanks to the latest mishandling of the Endangered Species Act. Last December, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued what is known as a “biological opinion” imposing water reductions on the San Joaquin Valley and environs to safeguard the federally protected hypomesus transpacificus, a.k.a., the delta smelt. As a result, tens of billions of gallons of water from mountains east and north of Sacramento have been channelled away from farmers and into the ocean, leaving hundreds of thousands of acres of arable land fallow or scorched.

For this, Californians can thank the usual environmental suspects, er, lawyers. Last year’s government ruling was the result of a 2006 lawsuit filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and other outfits objecting to increased water pumping in the smelt vicinity. In June, things got even dustier when the National Marine Fisheries Service concluded that local salmon and steelhead also needed to be defended from the valley’s water pumps. Those additional restrictions will begin to effect pumping operations next year.


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