A long story in the New York Times under the headline “California farmers short of labor, and patience” doesn’t just offer a detailed synopsis of frustrations over U.S. immigration policy. In the game of political one-upmanship it provides a not-so-veiled threat to the Republican Party.
Humble advice to the Democrats: Don’t get cocky! You’re just as complicit.
Apparently upset about broken promises and continued stall-tactics over comprehensive immigration reform, Western Growers Association President Tom Nassif told the NYT that members of his organization could withhold donations from GOP candidates if agriculture cannot have the issues it cares about addressed in a realistic and timely manner.
According to OpenSecrets.org, American agribusiness has so far donated nearly $26 million to political candidates and parties in 2013-2014. Just over 70 percent of that money went to Republicans.
In this age of defending (and almost worshipping) the minority, one would think that California agriculture – or American agriculture for that matter – would be moved to the front of the preferential treatment line because its numbers are so small. While the political class in America likes to tout the “little guy,” the “minority” and the “disadvantaged,” who else of late is more marginalized and neglected than the California farmer?
That frustration is not only expressed over immigration, but over just about every other issue agriculture must contend with that comes in the form of a regulation or rule; the list is legion. Frustration is such a common occurrence at these meetings that aside from the call-to-order and flag salute, entire meeting agendas can be filled with discussions on regulatory issues.
We see it in California with the drought situation. I don’t have to repeat what this is all about. Growers are frustrated over much the same political inaction and mismanaged priorities in the water debate as they are with immigration reform. Like the long-standing calls from agriculture over the need for reliable, sustainable sources of water storage for urban, agricultural and environmental uses, agriculture has been asking Congress for comprehensive immigration reform for years. However, like all congressional promises, they are made to be broken and ignored.
At the heart of the matter is a class of people who seem to have garnered considerable attention from the political overlords for a much different reason, which makes the politics convoluted and the issues that much more difficult to deal with. It seems as if the political ruling class has chosen against agriculture, which is likely why Nassif is forced into making such statements.
While farmers and Latino farmworkers are accused of being arch-enemies, the fact is they benefit from each other. This common dependency is no more apparent and recognized than at the recent water rallies in California voices are united and the calls for action clear.
The irony is that California agriculture has done more to provide stable employment opportunities and a much-improved standard of living for Mexican immigrants, legal or otherwise, than any political program dreamed up in an office in Washington D.C. or Sacramento.