Dumber than a can of paint

In yet another example of how wingnut politicians act without thinking of the logical consequences, Georgia Republicans passed a law that’s leaving their agricultural industry in sad shape:

After enacting House Bill 87, a law designed to drive illegal immigrants out of Georgia, state officials appear shocked to discover that HB 87 is, well, driving a lot of illegal immigrants out of Georgia.

It might be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

Thanks to the resulting labor shortage, Georgia farmers have been forced to leave millions of dollars’ worth of blueberries, onions, melons and other crops unharvested and rotting in the fields. It has also put state officials into something of a panic at the damage they’ve done to Georgia’s largest industry.

Barely a month ago, you might recall, Gov. Nathan Deal welcomed the TV cameras into his office as he proudly signed HB 87 into law. Two weeks later, with farmers howling, a scrambling Deal ordered a hasty investigation into the impact of the law he had just signed, as if all this had come as quite a surprise to him.

And you know, here’s where the chickens really come home to roost. Politicians act as if undocumented immigrants contribute nothing to the nation’s economy, when the truth is, they do damned hard and dirty work that Americans consider beneath them:

The first batch of probationers started work last week at a farm owned by Dick Minor, president of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. In the coming days, more farmers could join the program.

So far, the experiment at Minor’s farm is yielding mixed results. On the first two days, all the probationers quit by mid-afternoon, said Mendez, one of two crew leaders at Minor’s farm.

“Those guys out here weren’t out there 30 minutes and they got the bucket and just threw them in the air and say, `Bonk this, I ain’t with this, I can’t do this,'” said Jermond Powell, a 33-year-old probationer. “They just left, took off across the field walking.”

Mendez put the probationers to the test last Wednesday, assigning them to fill one truck and a Latino crew to a second truck. The Latinos picked six truckloads of cucumbers compared to one truckload and four bins for the probationers.

“It’s not going to work,” Mendez said. “No way. If I’m going to depend on the probation people, I’m never going to get the crops up.”

You’d think that someone would figure out that undocumented laborers working for crap wages are what keeps food prices low enough for the entire nation. But then, you’d be assuming that these showboating politicians are smart enough to think of anything that can’t fit on a bumper sticker.

11 thoughts on “Dumber than a can of paint

  1. Georgia localities are going to see their tax receipts fall — all those migrant workers, while sending some money back home to relatives — do spend money locally. And some of them may have families with them, who also spend money. That’s sales taxes that will be lost. Such laws stupid in many ways.

  2. I live in Georgia and the situation is pretty sad regarding the crops. Georgia has a relatively new Secretary of Agriculture, that for some reason, didn’t foresee this happening, either. The law goes into effect the 1st of July and a good amount of the migrant workers just skipped working here and went to other states……
    The other sad part is that this year was a fantastic growing season. The peaches and the onions, everything, are so good. The weather in south Georgia between May and October is just hot and brutal, I don’t even like to travel there this time of the year.

  3. With all due respect comparing the average American with a person on probation is just as dumb as that can of paint. It has nothing to do with thinking the job being “beneath” them and everything to do with the pay. The job is hot, sweaty and demanding and what farmers usually offer is room, board, food and maybe a minimum wage(in our area it’s offered as an internship type deal). Additionally food prices are not just kept low by labor, the government keeps it low as well by paying farmers not to grow food. The issue is not nearly as simple as you are attempting to slant it.

  4. “Internship-type deal”? Really? Did you sign up your kids? Who wouldn’t want an opportunity to work in the fields all day?

  5. Back in my youth, in farm country SW of Milwaukee, WI, we little kids could earn some spending money by picking radishes when they were ready for harvesting in the spring. I went after school (without telling my mother as we didn’t have public phones in my one room country school; forgot when I got to the farm; pretty sure I rode my bike or walked with the other kids), bent over, then kneeled in dirt to pull up the radishes and put them into, iirc, little bunches (my memory is really unclear on that: did we just pick into bushel baskets or actually use rubber bands to put X number into a bunch?).

    My clearest memory is that the rough leaves on the radishes left me with a very itchy, sore skin on my hands and arms. I always associate radishes with getting a rash. And, no, there were no gloves.

    And I was grounded for some small period of time for driving my mother crazy by not getting home when she expected me.

    I also remember even my short, flexible back being sore, hence the kneeling; then my knees got sore and clothes dirty. My mother seldom spanked, so my backside was OK.

    I thought earning some spending money was really keen, however.

    The next time I got permission to go picking.

    I imagine that any adult in this society who has not been doing manual labor, especially something requiring bending over and strong support muscles, would find picking ground crops very painful. You’re bent over to the ground, trying to move fast, rustling through the leaves to see what is ready to be picked, bending over all the time except for a few moments of straightening up to move the bucket or baskets. Pretty soon the back muscles are screaming in pain, maybe cramping up. It’s bloody hot and there’re no iced drinks (unless you brought them); only, maybe, water.

    I think most American people aren’t physically fit enough to pick most crops. And, nowadays, many school kids, especially in HS, don’t have required gym classes or other physcial exercise.

    The one guy in the story who made it 7 hours said he would be back the next day– the picking boss (owner) said the cucs wouldn’t wait to be picked. The plan might have worked better with two teams of pickers, the lucky team beginning in the morning cool, the second starting in the heat of the day through twilight. Maybe three would be necessary until people built up enough strength….

    I can’t imagine putting in the full daylight hours of picking without having time to build up to the physical requirements of the job.

    Even picking vegetables has a learning curve. We kids had to select between radishes of the right size and those too small which should stay in the ground to grow some more (a practice followed in those days). It wasn’t just pulling up everything in the row.

    And a living wage would help, for sure. Help in putting up with the pain and attracting workers.

  6. Our agricultural system in the United States has been based on slavery from the beginning, wither the bonded slavery of white workers or chattel slavery of black ones. A lot of farm workers live and now work in situations that are only to be distinguished from slavery by minor legal technicalities.


  7. We won’t really be able to replace the undocumented immigrant workers with native born people until we reconstruct the systems of oppression, threats and exploitation (recruiters, labor brokers, overseers and so on) for our own people that we have supplying us with the others. But as things are going, we will probably get there pretty soon.

  8. As someone pointed out on another blog, this law was intended to push small farms out of existence, so Big Agra could swoop in.

  9. The real answer, of course, is to pay people more to do the work (whether legal or illegal). It would have a negligible effect on food prices since most of that comes from energy prices. But my guess is that small farmers can’t afford to do that and compete and Big Ag won’t because they own the politicians and will eventually be able to take over the small farmers driven out of business by this and exploit undocumented workers.

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