Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Farm Labor Supply Surprising Tobacco Growers

About the time the economy went in the dumper in 2001 folks started saying that the recession would improve the farm labor supply. But a fellow at an agricultural outlook seminar in Gainesville, Fla., said the supply of field laborers was just fine.

"We have a great system," he said. "It's called Greyhound. It crosses the border, picks up workers and when the job's done, it takes them back home."

No self-respecting American who could get a check in the mailbox would go sweat in a field, the speaker said. At the time, he was accurate.

Either times have changed and some of those folks who could get a check prefer to earn an honest's days wages - as my parents and grandparents taught - or, well, I don't think there is an or. You see, those checks still are available to just about everyone who asks for one and Congress keeps extending unemployment eligibility.

But farmers are reporting Americans coming to see about working in their fields. Laborer jobs. Earlier today Ray Tucker couldn't help grinning when he said an American was among the fellows harvesting the tobacco on his Kentucky farm. And Jay sounded a little proud when he said the American was keeping up with the Mexicans who came here through the H2A program.