Friday, April 21, 2017

     Several recent posts have focused on agriculture in Africa.  I applaud those posts.


     Today, I received an e-mail from the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development (AJFAND) that publicized its newest issue -- a special issue on biofortification of staple crops for Africa.  I have done some legal work on the issue of biofortification of crops for developing nations.  Hence, this issue caught my attention.  I provide the AJFAND information for your information and use.


Drew Kershen
**********************************************************************************


From: Hon. Prof. Ruth Oniang'o [mailto:RKOniango@ruraloutreachafrica.org]


Sent: 20 April 2017 09:07


Subject: Announcing AJFAND Volume 17 No. 2 (2017) - Special Issue on Biofortification


AJFAND Logo


Special Issue devoted to Biofortification


Finally we are here. Let me right upfront express profound appreciation to Amy Saltzman, a researcher at HarvestPlus, who has worked tirelessly with the AJFAND team to ensure a smooth running of what turned out to be a fairly long process to the realization of this Special Issue on Biofortification. Dr Howarth Bouis (revered and popularly referred to as "Howdy") starting about 5 years ago was very keen to have AJFAND publish a Special Issue on Biofortification. Whenever we met, he or someone else on his Program Advisory Committee (PAC) would bring it up and my response would be "sure, just let me know when you are ready". Well, then exactly 2 years ago after we met at a conference in Switzerland, Dr Bouis forwarded the first set of manuscripts and we agreed that they go through internal review first before submitting to AJFAND. After all, the number of authors involved was large, and the group fairly diverse. I recall when I joined the very first PAC, of HarvestPlus, the first product we addressed was the orange fleshed sweet potato. That was years ago, in the early 1990’s. From 1993, Howdy was determined in his belief that biofortification could be a huge answer to world hunger and micronutrient deficiency problems; we watched him grey and I recall several times telling him: "One of these days, you will receive an award for this work you are doing". He would just smile. I am happy that it has finally come to pass. I remember when Dr Per Pinstrup Anderson called me to ask whether I could join the HarvestPlus PAC. He said: "Ruth, I am calling you from Washington DC. And you have to say YES, otherwise I will not get off the phone". Well, I had to agree. Dr Anderson was then the well- respected Director General of IFPRI and a good friend, and both his height and voice are always very convincing. That is one scientist I truly respect. This PAC, chaired by Dr Peter MacPherson, former USAID Administrator and past President of Michigan State University was an ambitious one but also extremely supportive of Howdy’s work. IFPRI too, the home of HarvestPlus demonstrated unwavering support and especially at times when no funding appeared to be forthcoming. Somehow all these people and many more believed in what Howdy was spearheading. Research takes time, but convincing many people to come along with you on something that is not yet tangible takes some skill and a lot of good luck. When you look at Howdy and listen to his story, it is difficult not to believe him. His determination and devotion to this cause has yielded fruits, real results. Yes, there is still a lot to do, but at least the foundation has been laid, and the proof of concept achieved. From 1993, to the present time, nearly 25 years, Africa has gone through many cycles of drought and hunger. As I write this, 17 million people are afflicted by famine in the Horn of Africa. The good thing about the orange fleshed sweet potato is its judicious use of water. So, it does better than many tubers in limited rainfall. This point was seriously emphasized at a recent CIP (International Potato Centre) meeting I attended in Kisumu.


It was amazing at the same meeting to learn of the multitude of products and especially snacks for both adults and children that can be made from orange and purple sweet potatoes.


This special issue of AJFAND has a lot to teach all of us: policy makers, researchers/scientists, farmers, donors, practitioners, consumers, private sector and job seekers. Patience pays, and together we can solve some of the world’s problems when we put our minds to it. I wish to congratulate all who have put effort for us to realize this issue, which can now be shared with interested parties across the world, and also to those who have devoted years of their professional careers to biofortification. Because of their unwavering resolve, billions of the world’s hungriest can access affordable food-based micronutrients.


Congratulations go to Dr Howarth Bouis and his team for receiving the 2016 World Food Prize, and we at AJFAND thank you so much for affording us the opportunity to publish this work. SCIENCE matters, and research is the mother of innovation, and all these efforts need to be supported, as it is the only way to address the ever increasing world problems. Hunger and malnutrition should be problems of the past in this 21st century.


I thank all AJFAND staff and reviewers for the mazing contributions they have made towards the finalization of this issue on BIOFORTIFICATION.


Enjoy this issue and forward all comments to:


Dr Amy Saltzman [ ajsaltzman.hp@gmail.com ] and Editor-in-Chief [ oniango@iconnect.co.ke ] for action.


Ruth Oniang’o
Editor-in-Chief, AJFAND
Foreword: Ruth Oniang'o
Profile: Howarth Bouis


Preface: Tumusiime Rhoda Peace


•Chapter 1:
An Overview of the landscape and approach for Biofortification in Africa
Howarth Bouis et al. DOI: 10.18697/ajfand.HarvestPlus01


Nutrition and Food Science


•Chapter 2:
Effect of regular consumption of provitamin A biofortified staple crops on Vitamin A status in populations in low-income countries.
Marjorie Haskell et al. DOI: 10.18697/ajfand.HarvestPlus02


•Chapter 3:
Efficacy of iron-biofortified crops.
Erick Boy et al. DOI: 10.18697/ajfand.HarvestPlus03


•Chapter 4:
Micronutrient (provitamin A and iron/zinc) retention in biofortified crops.
Aurelie Bechoff et al. DOI: 10.18697/ajfand.HarvestPlus04


Plant Breeding and Instrumentation


•Chapter 5:
Progress update: Crop development of biofortified staple food crops under HarvestPlus.
Meike Andersson et al. DOI: 10.18697/ajfand.HarvestPlus05


•Chapter 5: ANNEX 1
Biofortified varieties released under HarvestPlus (as of December 2016).
Chapter 5: Annex 1 DOI: 10.18697/ajfand.HarvestPlus05.annex1


•Chapter 6:
High-throughput measurement methodologies for developing nutrient-dense crops.
Georgia Guild et al. DOI: 10.18697/ajfand.HarvestPlus06


Crop Development and Delivery Experience


•Chapter 7:
Sweet potato development and delivery in sub-Saharan Africa.
Jan Low et al. DOI: 10.18697/ajfand.HarvestPlus07


•Chapter 8:
Orange maize in Zambia: Crop development and delivery experience.
Eliab Simpungwe et al. DOI: 10.18697/ajfand.HarvestPlus08


•Chapter 9:
Vitamin A cassava in Nigeria: Crop development and delivery.
Paul Ilona et al. DOI: 10.18697/ajfand.HarvestPlus09


•Chapter 10:
Iron beans in Rwanda: Crop development and delivery experience.
Joseph Mulambu et al. DOI: 10.18697/ajfand.HarvestPlus10


•Chapter 11:
Marketing biofortified crops: insights from consumer research.
Benjamin Uchitelle-Pierce and Patience Ubomba-Jaswa DOI: 10.18697/ajfand.HarvestPlus11


•Chapter 12:
Integrating biofortified crops into community development programs.
Carolyn MacDonald et al. DOI: 10.18697/ajfand.HarvestPlus12


Meauring Impact; Economic Methodologies


•Chapter 13:
Building the case for biofortification: Measuring and maximizing impact in the HarvestPlus program.
Nancy Johnson et al. DOI: 10.18697/ajfand.HarvestPlus13


•Chapter 14
Identification of optimal investments.
Keith Lividini et al. DOI: 10.18697/ajfand.HarvestPlus14


•Chapter 15:
Introducing orange sweet potato: Tracing the evolution of evidence on its effectiveness.
Alan de Brauw et al. DOI: 10.18697/ajfand.HarvestPlus15


Policy/Stakeholder Engagement


•Chapter 16:
Advocacy for biofortification: Building stakeholder support, integration into regional and national policies, and sustaining momentum.
Namukolo Covic et al. DOI: 10.18697/ajfand.HarvestPlus16


•Chapter 17:
The way forward.
Howarth Bouis et al. DOI: 10.18697/ajfand.HarvestPlus17


##################################################


Hon. Prof. Ruth K. Oniang'o, PhD
Editor-in-Chief, African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development (AJFAND)
Founder, Rural Outreach Program (ROP) Africa
Chair of Boards, SAA/SAFE
President, International Academy of Food Science and Technology (IAFoST) 2016-2018
2014 IFAMA Distinguished Service Award Recipient
2014 FORTUNE Magazine one of 30 Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink
Adjunct Professor of Nutrition, TUFTS University, USA


CONTACTS:
9 Planets Apartments, Block S6
Kabarnet Gardens, Off Kabarnet Road [Off Ngong Road]
P.O. Box 29086-00625 Nairobi, KENYA Cellphone: +254-703 113995


Alternative Contacts:
+254 722 406955 +254 722 809074
Email: RKOniango@ruraloutreachafrica.org
Email: oniango@iconnect.co.ke
Website: www.ropafrica.org AND www.ajfand.net

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Ruling finds California’s largest fruit grower collectively bargained in bad faith with the UFW

[Apologia: I realize all agriculture-newsworthy items don’t originate from California, but as I live in the state and our other bloggers are quiescent at the moment, I trust you can forgive me. And yet we might recall that California is ‘positioned as the agricultural powerhouse of the United States,’ as it ‘leads all of the other states in farm income!’]
By Geoffrey Mohan for the Los Angeles Times, April 17, 2017
The state’s largest grower of peaches and other fruit bargained in bad faith with the United Farm Workers of America and wrongly tried to exclude as many as 1,500 employees from a collective bargaining agreement, a judge has ruled. The decision gives a strong boost to the UFW’s claim to represent as many as 6,500 workers at Gerawan Farming Inc., a 12,000-acre farm and packing operation in the San Joaquin Valley that has been the focal point of one of the longest-running and most acrimonious labor dispute in decades. The decision also reaffirms that employees of labor contractors, who now provide about half the workers who pick the state’s crops, are covered by union contracts signed with the grower.
The Gerawan-UFW fight, which began in the early 1990s, has sparked the single largest effort to decertify a union, along with a flurry of labor board and court decisions, including one that has stalled the state’s ability to impose a contract on warring parties. And these parties have been at war, Administrative Law Judge William L. Schmidt acknowledged in a decision issued Friday.
Co-owner Dan Gerawan’s undisguised anger with the union, Schmidt wrote, ‘appears deep and unusually long-lasting,’ and ‘perhaps explains the motive underlying the current expenditure of what must have been enormous sums by the Gerawan enterprises opposing the UFW and seeking to rid itself of any legal obligation to deal with that organization.’  Gerawan showed ‘at most, a lackadaisical attitude … and at worst, complete hostility’ and ‘almost certainly guaranteed’ a mediator would have to step in and impose a contract in 2013, Schmidt wrote.
Armando Elenes, a spokesman for the UFW, said the decision ‘confirms what we’ve been saying all along — Gerawan has been undermining the law. They’re trying to undermine the state of California.’
Gerawan’s lead attorney, David Schwarz, blasted the decision and promised an appeal — none of the previous decisions in the case has gone without appeals from the growers and the Agricultural Labor Relations Board. ‘Gerawan is confident that these undemocratic decisions will not stand, and will challenge this latest erroneous ruling,’ Schwarz said Monday. He accused the judge of blaming the grower for the union’s ‘unexplained, 17-year absence’ from Gerawan’s fields.
Schmidt’s ruling appears to undermine Gerawan’s assertion that the union abandoned his workers in the mid-1990s before returning in 2012 to demand the right to negotiate a new contract. Gerawan has argued that UFW was solely looking to pad its membership and coffers — it collects dues of 3% of each member’s gross pay — by deliberately running out the clock on negotiations so it could obtain a contract imposed by a mediator. [….]
The rest of the article is here.

Monday, April 17, 2017

“African Arguments” series from Zed Books

This series of titles from Zed Books has several volumes directly and indirectly relevant to questions in international political economy and agriculture, should anyone be interested. I have a post with a bit more information over at Ratio Juris. [Please note: I am not being paid by Zed Books, I did not receive a (or any) free book(s) from the publisher, and I was not asked to promote the series.]

Friday, April 14, 2017

Agricultural Labor & Affluent Consumers: Cacao Farming, Commodities, and Consumption

Drying cocoa beans in rural Ghana (Photo: Elke de Buh)


By Simran Sethi for the Los Angeles Times, April 13, 2017 

Just after Valentine’s Day, prices for cocoa plummeted. Days later, media outlets erupted in a collective hurrah. ‘Your chocolate is getting cheaper,’ headlines proclaimed. ‘Easter will be sweet.’ What wasn’t factored into the celebration is the deep suffering of the subsistence farmers who grow cacao, the seeds of a pod-shaped fruit that, once harvested, become the cocoa traded on the commodities market and destined for the chocolate eggs and bunnies that fill most Easter baskets.

Cacao’s origins trace to the rainforests of the upper Amazon, and the seeds are believed to have been transformed into a drink in Mesoamerica at least as early as 400 BC. Once used as medicine, currency and a stand-in for human blood during rituals, today cacao — cocoa — is dried, fermented and roasted to become the foundation of the $100-billion chocolate industry. The trees grow in a tropical band 20 degrees north and south of the equator, with 70% of production based in West Africa and centered in Ivory Coast.

Despite the success of the chocolate (and confection) industries, 90% of cocoa farmers operate at the margins. A recent study by the French Development Agency and Barry Callebaut (the world’s largest cocoa manufacturer) determined farmers in Ivory Coast earn roughly 91 cents a day. Imagine what it means for those farmers when the price they receive for the fruits of their labor drops — as it has recently — by 33%.

This decline in commodity cocoa prices over the past year is the result of several factors, including predictions that consumers in China and India would develop an insatiable appetite for chocolate. Consumption has increased in these countries but not at forecasted levels. And globally, demand has remained largely unchanged. But farmers haven’t been able to slow production: They had already planted more trees in anticipation of increased demand and that, coupled with good weather in most of Ivory Coast’s cocoa-growing regions, bolstered the harvest and has resulted in a bumper crop and oversupply.

Because there is no global agreement ensuring farmers a base price for cocoa, the farmers are vulnerable to every market shift. However, local governments can and do set parameters for the crop. In 2016, the Ivorian regulator Conseil du Cafe-Cacao set a minimum price of 1,100 Central African francs per kilogram, roughly 81 cents per pound, and also helped farmers contract with exporters to buy the early 2017 crop. But that was last July, when ​the market price of cocoa was significantly higher; many exporters have since defaulted on their commitments. Although officials say they’ve resold the defaulted contracts, last week Ivory Coast’s minimum price guaranteed to farmers was cut by almost 40%.

Adding to this challenge are reports that the new crop will be abundant. (It is a perverse fact of economics that high yields contribute to an increased supply that results in lower prices for farmers.) And with new plantings continuing to mature (it takes three to five years for a new tree to produce cocoa), the glut is expected to grow larger in years to come.

If farmers can’t earn a living from cocoa, they will grow other crops or seek out different employment. If the shift is widespread, it may decrease the diversity of cocoa, affect the development of the crop and ultimately make cocoa harder to get and more expensive for chocolate lovers and chocolate makers.

For consumers, the solution is a tasty one: Eat more chocolate. But not just any chocolate. At no other moment in history has information on farmers, cocoa prices and the chocolate industry been so readily available — investigate and choose wisely.

To support cocoa farmers, look for chocolate that contains more cocoa. (In the United States, a candy bar has to contain only 10% cocoa to be legally identified as chocolate.) Pay attention to the story on the label. Certifications indicate a range of social, economic and environmental initiatives to sustain cocoa production. Origin designations seek to highlight different flavors found in the regions where cocoa is grown.

If you put your money where your mouth is and buy craft, or specialty, chocolate, you’re underwriting makers who may be trading directly with farmers. Craft chocolate costs more than what’s mass-produced because its makers are committed to raising the profile of quality cocoa, and they pay a premium for the crop.

Go ahead, bite into that chocolate Easter bunny. But consider the people whose labor supplied the raw material that makes it taste so good.” The entire article is here.

(Simran Sethi is the author of Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love and the creator of the chocolate podcast ‘The Slow Melt.’)

Further Reading:

  • Barclay, Eliza. “Why The World Might Be Running Out Of Cocoa Farmers,” NPR, July 3, 2015. 
  • Clarence-Smith, William Gervase. Cocoa and Chocolate, 1765-1914. New York: Routledge, 2000. 
  • Cocoa bean,” Wikipedia entry. 
  • Mintz, Sidney W. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin Books, 1986 (1985). 
  • Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: Anatomy of an Industry. New York: The New Press, 2006. 
  • Ryan, Órla. Chocolate Nations: Living and Dying for Cocoa in West Africa. London: Zed Books, 2011. 
  • Wessel, Marius and P.M. Foluke Quist-Wessel. “Cocoa production in West Africa, a review and analysis of recent developments,” NJAS – Wageningen Journal of Life Sciences, Vols. 74–75, December 2015: 1–7.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Toward Agroecology & Food Justice


I’ve made a fair amount of additions to this bibliography: The Sullied Science & Political Economy of Hyper-Industrial Agriculture (Or: ‘Toward Agroecology & Food Justice’). In a future post at the Agricultural Law blog I aim to provide an introduction to agroecology, providing several definitions as well as references (online and otherwise) to some of the best (assessed by my lights) literature on the subject. At its best, agroecology is in part utopian (in a non-pejorative sense) insofar as it embraces concerns with “food sovereignty” and “food justice” (and social justice generally) while attempting to transform—or at least enlist—contemporary science and technology into—or on behalf of—emancipatory tools for “the people,” that is, something intrinsically tied to (participatory and representative) democratic principles, values, and practices no longer deformed, distorted, or trumped by capitalist imperatives. (If one cannot imagine agriculture ‘beyond capitalism’ agroecology will be dismissed as merely ideological or even nonsensical). It is also “utopian” in the sense that it aims to be interdisciplinary with respect to both the natural and social sciences. More on this anon. 

Thursday, April 06, 2017

U.S. Agricultural Policy in the World Economy


In the hope of arousing abiding interest among those who’ve yet to read this work, what follows is from the informative if not provocative Foreword by James C. Scott to Bill WindersThe Politics of Food Supply: U.S. Agricultural Policy in the World Economy (Yale University Press, 2009):

“The task Bill Winders sets himself is sharply etched but, at the same time, dauntingly ambitious. How can one account for the demise of the trinity of production controls, price supports, and export subsidies that guided agricultural policy in the United States for more than a half century from the New Deal to the mid-1990s? The bookends of this enterprise are Franklin Roosevelt’s Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA, 1933), which instituted supply management, and the Federal Agriculture Improvement and Reform Act (FAIR Act, 1996), which abandoned it. Explaining this convincingly, as Winder does, requires a high order of interdisciplinary skills, including a firm grasp of partisan congressional politics, of agrarian movements throughout the country, of international trade, and of economic history. [….]

In place of explanations that have relied largely upon the vagaries of partisan politics and commodity prices to explain major policy shifts, Winders substitutes a particularly sophisticated version of class and sectoral politics. The three crops—corn, cotton, and wheat; those who grow them, market them, and buy them; and above all, those whose political futures depend upon keeping each crop’s constituents content, are the key actors in Winders’s drama. Each crop is distinctive in its geographical location, its class and ownership structure, its markets, and its political clout. The constituents each have different political interests, which, furthermore, shift over time. The coalitions they forge and dissolve, Winders argues, form the most reliable weather vane indicating the probable direction of agricultural policy.

The historical dialectic that Winder traces among the constituents for the various crops, the policy outcomes, and the resulting shifts in the structure and interests of the growers and sellers of each crop is what gives his analysis its dynamic quality. In a discerning version of the adage ‘be careful what you wish for,’ Winders shows how a policy ‘victory’ by, say, the growers of cotton or corn serves, in unanticipated ways, to transform their very structures, interests, and sway. The logic is worked out to great effect in the southern cotton sector. There, in a setting where serfdom, in the form of share-tenancy, had replaced slavery, landlords seized for themselves alone the crop payments mandated by the AAA. When they were required by law to share these payments with tenants, landlords responded by dismissing the tenants, moving to more capital-intensive production, and diversifying into growing soybeans and feed grains and raising livestock. This, in turn, helped touch off the great migration north by poor rural blacks and whites, setting the stage for the cotton lobby’s decline and facilitating the civil rights movement. Eventually, the demise of the one-party South broke the seniority-based death grip southerners had exercised on congressional democrats since the Civil War. Recursive, dialectical analysis of this kind seems, in my view, to offer the most promising way forward for otherwise wooden and static class analysis. It also helps explain why the one genuine attempt at land reform to break the back of (largely) racialized peonage in the cotton South failed. FDR’s agrarian reformers—Rexford Tugwell, Jerome Frank, and ‘Pat’ Jackson—were, to use a contemporary expression, ‘thrown under the bus’ when the full congressional power of the southern planters was brought to bear on the New Deal. Just as post-Civil War Republican Reconstruction was undone by white planters, so was DFR’s post-Depression plan for a reconstructed and more equitable agrarian South undone by much the same forces. [….]

Winders understands, as did Polanyi, than no one, save a handful of theorists, loves perfect competition. The ultimate goal of all producers and wholesalers is some form of oligopoly or monopoly that allows price fixing. Producers understand that the more ‘perfect’ the competition becomes, the closer the rate of profit approaches to zero. The coveted shelter from ‘cut-throat’ competition is, short of natural monopolies, available to small-scale producers only through political influence. North American cotton and wheat growers have for some time, in international markets, been price-takers rather than price-givers and hence have sought protection. Corn, on the other hand, because the United States is the dominant world exporter and because core is an ‘input’ feed grain for foreign and domestic livestock rearing, has generated a far more complex set of interests. At any event, the representatives of agrarian producers have generally sough precisely what Boeing, Chrysler, Harley-Davidson, and Bear Stearns have sought: to privatize profits and socialize losses. When prices were buoyant, the pressure for price and export subsidies diminished, and when prices plummeted, the political clamor for subsidies grew. Whether the producers had the political clout to legislate their profit insurance is a large part of Winders’s story, but what has never been in doubt, following Polanyi, is their desire to be politically sheltered from a tumultuous market.

[….] Surely, it is curious that, from at least the New Deal forward, U.S. agricultural policy has primarily centered on price supports for the major commodities: corn, cotton, wheat, tobacco, soybeans, milk, etc. That is, the place occupied in other countries by a rural policy has been usurped in the United States by commodity policy. Why this should be so is both intriguing and complex. One might argue that the early ambitions of the Tennessee Valley Authority were the embryonic beginnings—alas stillborn—of a genuine rural policy. After this failure, the issue of price supports dominated agrarian politics in Washington. Where the French, the Danes, the Germans, and the Norwegians have asked themselves what kinds of rural communities they wish to promote, what the rural landscape should look like, what land uses should be encouraged, and what rural services should be publicly provided, Americans have seldom posed such questions, let alone addressed them until very recently. Until they are addressed, we may have a wheat or corn policy but nothing that remotely resembles an agricultural, let alone a rural, policy.”

Professor Winders’ latest book is Grains (Polity Press, 2017).

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Moral & Political Economy of Poverty, Hunger, and Famine

Perhaps some readers of this blog may be interested in a “suggested reading” list on the moral and political economy of poverty, hunger, and famine, cross-posted at Ratio Juris & Religious Left Law.

Friday, March 31, 2017

César E. Chávez: March 31, 1927 – April 23, 1993


My bibliography for César Chávez & the United Farm Workers … and the Struggle of Farm Workers in the U.S. is here.

NAFTA & Agriculture: Rhetoric, Posturing, Reality

Protesters in Mexico City hand out corn to workers and farmers in a march against spiraling food prices in 2007. Luis Acosta/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“Mexico’s bargaining chips with Trump: how about a corn boycott?” 

By Kate Linthicum for the Los Angeles Times, March 29, 2017

“First domesticated here 10,000 years ago, corn is not only a staple of the Mexican diet, but also a symbol of Mexico itself. Since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, it has also become a symbol of Mexico’s growing economic dependence on the United States. Now, as President Trump threatens Mexico with drastic changes on trade, its leaders are wielding corn as a weapon. Mexico’s Senate is considering legislation calling for a boycott of U.S. corn, and the government has begun negotiating with Argentina and Brazil to import corn from those nations tax-free.

The threat of a boycott is Mexico’s latest and perhaps cleverest attempt to fight back against Trump, whose threats to pull out of free trade agreements and slap a 20% import tax on Mexican products have shaken confidence in Mexico’s economy.

Mexico, which exported surplus corn as recently as the early 1980s, now buys a third of the corn it consumes from the United States. Last year, it purchased $2.5 billion worth of corn from Iowa, Nebraska and other states, making Mexico the largest corn export market for U.S. farmers. Trump points to a roughly $60-billion trade deficit in Mexico’s favor as justification for a major overhaul of one of the United States’ most important and historically stable trading partnerships.

Organizers of the boycott say their goal is to highlight how much certain U.S. sectors depend on that relationship. ‘Trump says Mexico takes advantage of the U.S.,’ said Mexican Sen. Armando Rios Piter, who introduced the legislation last month after being inspired by a group of Mexican American immigrant rights activists calling for a boycott. ‘We need to make it clear how much many states win from trade with Mexico,’ said Rios, a member of the left-leaning Democratic Revolution Party. ‘It’s important that people in the Midwest know what Mexico means to them.’

Analysts say that although the proposed boycott is unlikely to pass, it is a deft political move because its biggest effects would be felt in Iowa, Nebraska, Wisconsin and other states that voted for Trump in last year’s presidential election.

For now, U.S. farmers have a clear advantage over South American sellers, thanks to proximity and a logistics system built up over decades, plus duty-free access that gives the U.S. an additional edge on prices. But elected leaders and agriculture advocacy groups in those states are now on high alert. Tom Sleight, chief executive of the U.S. Grains Council, said he was worried about a shift in Mexican corn purchases, noting that Mexican customers who met with him this month were upset with the tone of NAFTA renegotiations. ‘They want to keep it business as usual, but there’s consistent talk about a Plan B,’ he said.

In private meetings with Trump’s trade officials and in public settings, lawmakers have repeatedly warned about the potential harm to U.S. farmers should Mexico move to diversify grain imports by buying from suppliers in South America or other markets. ‘I can’t stress enough that there will be real and immediate economic consequences for farmers if we lose exports,’ Charles E. Grassley, the Republican senator from Iowa, said at a confirmation hearing this month on Robert Lighthizer, Trump’s nominee for the U.S. trade representative.” [….]

The rest of this article in the Los Angeles Times is here. 

Update: Two days later, the Times is reporting that there is presumptive evidence for the belief that the Trump administration is backing away from its earlier positions about trade with Mexico:

“Far from the sweeping trade overhaul that Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail, his administration is considering a surprisingly modest revamp of the North American Free Trade Agreement, according to a draft letter provided to Congress. The objectives outlined would bolster Trump’s emphasis on ‘Buy American,’ including giving greater preferences for U.S. companies in government procurement.

But the draft includes none of the harsh, punitive measures or steep tariffs he once threatened against Mexico. Neither does it crack down on currency manipulation or weak labor regulations, things critics of free trade in particular have long sought. The relatively minor changes to NAFTA would be a far cry from Trump’s campaign promise to dramatically reshape or withdraw from what he repeatedly called one of the worst deals ever negotiated by the U.S.

Ironically, the draft also incorporates many of the elements in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the 12-nation trade deal negotiated by President Obama that Trump also trashed and formally withdrew from shortly after he took office. John Veroneau, a trade lawyer in Washington and former deputy U.S. trade representative in the George W. Bush administration, said the draft hardly qualifies as ‘protectionist and the first shots of a trade war. People may take issue with different items in the letter, but there’s nothing alarmist or unconventional about it.’

If the draft is adopted, its approach toward NAFTA would mark a political victory for a pro-free-trade faction that has been rising inside the Trump administration, led by former Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn, now Trump’s top economic advisor. He and others have been seeking to temper the more protectionist policies articulated during the campaign.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer downplayed the significance of the draft, saying it was ‘not a statement of administration policy. That is not an accurate assessment of where we are at this time.’ Spicer suggested that there would be substantial changes in the letter after Trump’s nominee for U.S. trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, is confirmed by the Senate.” [….]

The rest of this article is here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The political economy of California agriculture

Trump’s immigration crackdown is supposed to help U.S. citizens. For California farmers, it’s worsening a desperate labor shortage.
By Natalie Kitroeff and Geoffrey Mohan for the Los Angeles Times, March 17, 2017
[….] The flow of labor began drying up when President Obama tightened the border. Now President Trump is promising to deport more people, raid more companies and build a wall on the southern border. That has made California farms a proving ground for the Trump team’s theory that by cutting off the flow of immigrants they will free up more jobs for American-born workers and push up their wages. So far, the results aren’t encouraging for farmers or domestic workers.
Farmers are being forced to make difficult choices about whether to abandon some of the state’s hallmark fruits and vegetables, move operations abroad, import workers under a special visa or replace them altogether with machines. Growers who can afford it have already begun raising worker pay well beyond minimum wage. Wages for crop production in California increased by 13% from 2010 to 2015, twice as fast as average pay in the state, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Today, farmworkers in the state earn about $30,000 a year if they work full time — about half the overall average pay in California. Most work fewer hours. Some farmers are even giving laborers benefits normally reserved for white-collar professionals, like 401(k) plans, health insurance, subsidized housing and profit-sharing bonuses. Full-timers at Silverado Farming, for example, get most of those sweeteners, plus 10 paid vacation days, eight paid holidays, and can earn their hourly rate to take English classes.
But the raises and new perks have not tempted native-born Americans to leave their day jobs for the fields. Nine in 10 agriculture workers in California are still foreign born, and more than half are undocumented, according to a federal survey. [….]
‘The law of supply and demand doesn’t stop being true just because you’re talking about people,’ says George Borjas, a Harvard economist and prominent foe of unfettered immigration. ‘[Farmers] have had an almost endless supply of low-skill workers for a long time, and now they are finding it difficult to transition to a situation where they don’t.’
Borjas believes the ones who reap the rewards of immigration are employers — not just farmers, but restaurant owners and well-to-do homeowners who hire landscapers and housekeepers. The people who suffer most are American workers, who contend with more competition for jobs and lower pay.
But Silverado, the farm labor contracting company in Napa, has never had a white, American-born person take an entry-level gig, even after the company increased hourly wages to $4 above the minimum. And Silverado is far from unique.
U.S. workers filled just 2% of a sample of farm labor vacancies advertised in 1996, according to a report published by the Labor Department’s office of inspector general. ‘I don’t think anybody would dispute that that’s roughly the way it is now’ as well, says Philip Martin, an economist at UC Davis and one of the country’s leading experts on agriculture. [….]
The full article, with wonderful photographs, is here.

Friday, March 10, 2017

David A. Cleveland’s Balancing on a Planet: The Future of Food and Agriculture (2014)

 

Below is a substantial excerpt from the Introduction to David A. Cleveland’s Balancing on a Planet: The Future of Food and Agriculture (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2014). I hope it entices you to read the book, for while I have yet to finish, what I have read thus far and what I’ve peeked at in what’s to come, is very good. In brief—and for what it’s worth—I highly recommend it. Cleveland is Professor of Environmental Studies and Geography at my alma mater, the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), although I’ve never taken a course from him nor do I personally know him. (I have left out the embedded references for the notes.)

“The mainstream industrial agrifood system has been remarkably successful over the long run in increasing food production at a rate faster than population growth, with the promise of continuing to do so in the immediate future. Supporters of this system believe that a globally integrated agrifood system and technological breakthroughs, for example in genetic engineering of crop plants or precision agriculture, are key to providing enough food for the future. Advocates of alternative agrifood systems have a different perspective—they argue that the demand can be lowered via better diets and reduction of waste, and that supply can be increased in more sustainable ways, with ecological agricultural based on traditional methods and more local control. But the issue is far from settled, and it hinges on disagreement over values as well as facts. A major problem from an alternative perspective is that the mainstream agrifood system monopolizes the bulk of research and development resources, leaving little opportunity for developing the kinds of solutions needed to save the planet, nurture communities, and increase human happiness.

Yet, regardless of one’s perspective, there is also shockingly bad news about every element of our agrifood systems—from the contamination of drinking water with agricultural chemicals to the deteriorating nutritional quality of the food supply and of child nutritional status, from the loss of crop genetic resources to loss of prime farmland. It seems that our agrifood system has been going in a direction that is producing at least as many problems as solutions. While those in power have demanded more food and higher yields to maintain and expand their power for millennia, pushing farmers into practices that were environmentally and socially destructive, their effects were mostly localized. Today, however, we have a global system, highly degraded environments, and more than seven billion humans to feed, with one billion of those chronically hungry.

In order to move toward a more desirable future, we need to understand the successes and failures of our and current agrifood systems and how they are linked in time and space. We also need to agree on how to define the future and on how we need to change our current system to get there. [….]

I have two main goals for this book. The first is to encourage critical thinking by explaining the concepts that I think are key to understanding the problems and potential solutions for the challenges facing our agrifood systems. This includes demonstrating how these concepts can be applied to specific situations so that readers can use them to analyze new situations and discuss their findings with others. [….] My second main goal is to demonstrate how I have applied these concepts in my own thinking about agrifood systems; I share what I have concluded about the problems and solutions based on my own research and values. These two goals are synergistic in that if I achieve the first, it means that readers will be able to independently critique my application of the concepts and my conclusions. [….] 

Cleveland proceeds to explain why and how critical thinking is essential to the goals of his book, one consequence of which is that he endeavors 

“to present as openly as possible [his] own conclusions and assumptions while also standing back and viewing them critically—that is, not becoming too attached to them and remaining open to new data, to alternative interpretations of data, and to appreciating different values. For example, my values include the assumptions that equity of resource access and use for all people is good and that interacting with the biophysical world in ways that maintain high biological and cultural diversity and ecosystem functioning is good, and my analysis of the data leads me to empirical assumptions that anthropogenic climate change is a real and immense threat  and that small-scale, resource-poor farmers’ behaviors are often base on insightful and efficacious understanding of their environment and crops. [….]

I have worked with farmers, gardeners, and scientists on research and development projects in northeast Ghana; in the Swabi valley in Pakistan; in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, Mexico; and in the United States, on the Zuni and Hopi reservations and in Santa Barbara County, California. In addition, I have spent shorter periods of time researching agrifood systems in other places, including Burkina Faso, Egypt, India, Syria, Mali, and China. I have interviewed and collected observational data, in addition to studying the research of others. [….]

One of my central conclusions is that small-scale, traditional, locally oriented, low –external-input agrifood systems are an important resource for the future. Much of the Earth’s remaining cultural and biological diversity is in the care of small-scale farmers. Many of the farmers I have worked with use knowledge and methods passed on through generations to grow locally adapted crop varieties, evaluating and incorporating new ideas from other farming traditions, from extension agents, and from scientists. I have celebrated with them their successful harvests and eaten special foods made from those harvests, rich with history, meaning, and flavor.

These farmers are often proud of what they do and know, and while they seek improvements in their farming and their lives in general, most do not want to abandon those things they value about their way of life. For example, in Oaxaca, Mexico, when farmers were asked as part of our research on crop diversity if they wanted their children to be maize and bean farmers like themselves, 91 percent said ‘yes.’ However, these same farmers see the world changing rapidly from the traditions of the many generations that preceded them—only 47 percent thought their children would actually grow up to be maize and bean farmers.

I have also seen farmers struggle to feed themselves and to understand the forces seemingly beyond their control that make the survival of their agrifood system almost impossible—population growth; environmental degradation; climate change; market fluctuations; privatization of water, land, and other resources; inappropriate development projects; and corrupt and incompetent governments and development organizations at home and abroad. [….]

While I see much potential in small-scale agriculture for solving the world food crises, I am also aware that small-scale farming is often physically and mentally grueling, and that most farmers are not well rewarded for their work. According to one estimate, the more than two billion people living on almost five hundred million small-scale (less than 2-ha) farms in the Third World include half of the world’s undernourished people and the majority living in absolute poverty. In short, I am not a nostalgic romantic. There is no going back to the small-scale agriculture of the past—doing so would neither be neither possible nor desirable. It was often a very hard life, and the world is a different place now, with more than seven billion humans to support. But simply continuing to promote the mainstream agrifood system is not the answer either.

I believe that an important aspect of creating alternatives for the future will be to combine small-scale, traditional agriculture with select aspects of modern, scientific agriculture in ways that provide solutions to the current food crisis—long-term solutions to balancing our biological need for food with our environmental impact in ways that also fulfill our cultural, social, and psychological needs. [....] ... [T]here are usually trade-offs between what is possible and our goals for the future, and also between the different goals we have for the future. We need to minimize these trade-offs, to look for ways to make the system work better for everyone. We need to think critically, holistically, systematically, and compassionately. And we need to get to work right away. [....]

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

California’s chronic water shortage does not bode well for its agriculture



Our wild, wet winter doesn’t change this reality —California will be short of water forever

By Jay Famiglietti and Michelle Miro* for the Los Angeles Times, March 7, 2017

[….] All winter, Californians have been asking one question: Is the drought finally over? The federal monitor shows just a few lingering tan and yellow patches in Southern California, but for scientists, the beginning and end of drought conditions are exceptionally difficult to pinpoint. Still, after only a few more serious encounters with the ‘Pineapple Express,’ Gov. Jerry Brown may well declare the state’s 3-year drought emergency over.

Which leads us to the second most frequently asked question of this unusually wet winter: What’s our water future? The answer has been clear for a while: It’s going to be a lot like our water past, but more so — California is, was and will be chronically water short.

The drought has underlined three important realities that aren’t going to change. First, the way municipalities use water can be sustainable, even as their population grows, as long as they embrace conservation, water recycling and reuse, and a diverse portfolio of management options. However, agricultural water use at today’s scale in California is not sustainable. Agriculture is literally sucking the state dry. 

Food production requires nearly unfathomable volumes of water, and has resulted in the long-term decline of the total available fresh water in California. The great thirst of our highly productive agricultural sector has never been and will never be satisfied by the annual winter storms that feed the state’s rivers and reservoirs. The shortfall is met by pumping groundwater at rates that greatly exceed those of replenishment. As a result, groundwater levels in much of the state, including the once-vast reserves beneath the Central Valley, have been declining for nearly a century.

It is essential to understand that wet winters like the current one will not reverse this long-term decline. Historically, even the wettest multiyear periods result in only a modest uptick in the otherwise steady loss of Central Valley groundwater. Consequently, agriculture in California has to adapt to this dwindling supply. Farmers and ranchers will face more of the kinds of difficult decisions the drought has already forced, such as fallowing fields as groundwater levels drop, or worse, taking land out of production. [emphasis added]

Next, we must recognize that the classic definition of water as a sustainable resource — that is, using only the surface and groundwater available on an annual, renewable basis — is no longer tenable for the entire state. Instead, water sustainability in California must now refer to efforts to slow the rate of disappearance of the state’s groundwater reserves.

The landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, passed in 2014 in Sacramento, acknowledges and confronts the declining availability of fresh water in California. Its requirements, however, will never result in the recovery of statewide groundwater levels, even if important efforts to enhance groundwater recharge and construct additional storage are pursued.

Finally, it is simply impossible to effectively plan for California’s water future without knowing a lot more about how much water the state has, how much it needs and how these amounts are changing with time. [….] The entire article is here.

* Jay Famiglietti is a hydrologist and former professor of Earth system science and of Civil and Environmental Engineering at UC Irvine. Michelle Miro is a hydrologist and doctoral candidate in civil and environmental engineering at UCLA.

Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images  

Recommended Reading:
  • Carle, David. Introduction to Water in California. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2nd ed., 2016. 
  • Ingram, B. Lynn and Frances Malamud Roam. The West without Water… . Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2013.  
  • Reisner, Marc. Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water. New York: Penguin Books, revised ed. 1993 (1986). 
  • Wilkinson, Charles F. Crossing the Next Meridian: Land, Water, and the Future of the West. Washington, DC: Island Press, 1992.
  • Worster, Donald. Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West. New York: Pantheon Books, 1985.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

An “agrihood” in Detroit (an exemplum of the agroecological utopian praxis of ‘democratization from below’)

A FB friend shared this encouraging news item on inhabitat from last year about the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative: “America’s first urban ‘agrihood’ feeds 2,000 households for free:”

“When you think of Detroit, ‘sustainable‘ and ‘agriculture‘ may not be the first two words that you think of. But a new urban agrihood debuted by The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative (MUFI) might change your mind. The three-acre development boasts a two-acre garden, a fruit orchard with 200 trees, and a sensory garden for kids.

If you need a refresher on the definition of agrihood, MUFI describes it as an alternative neighborhood growth model. An agrihood centers around urban agriculture, and MUFI offers fresh, local produce to around 2,000 households for free.”
From MUFI’s website:

“The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that seeks to engage members of the Michigan community in sustainable agriculture. We believe that challenges unique to the Michigan community (e.g., vacant land, poor diet, nutritional illiteracy, and food insecurity) present a unique opportunity for community-supported agriculture. Using agriculture as a platform to promote education, sustainability, and community—while simultaneously reducing socioeconomic disparity—we hope to empower urban communities. 

Our primary focus is the redevelopment of a two-square-block area in Detroit’s North End, which is being positioned as an epicenter of urban agriculture. This space is heavily themed by ‘adaptive reuse of the built-environment’ in which we are hoping to demonstrate everything from Best practices for sustainable urban agriculture, Effective strategies for increasing food security, cost-competitive and scalable models for blight deconstruction, and Innovation in Blue & Green infrastructure.” 

Friday, February 17, 2017

“Can you please pass the soy creamer?”

Among the definitions for “milk” in The New Shorter Oxford Dictionary (Clarendon Press, 1993) we find: “A milky juice [like many lexical definitions, circular in construction] or latex secreted by certain plants, e.g. coconut milk.” And among the figurative uses of the word, “milk” is “[s]omething pleasant and (supposedly) nourishing,” the parenthetical qualification no doubt appreciated by dairy lobbyists. Finally, our dictionary defines milk variously as a “culinary, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, or other preparation of herbs, drugs, etc., resembling milk” [emphasis added]. Within the category of phrases, our dictionary cites “almond milk” and “rice milk,” and among several terms with “milk” in them we discover “milk stout” (‘a kind of sweet stout made with lactose’) and “milk-tree” (‘any of several trees having a milky juice’). Not mentioned is “mother’s milk” in the sense of something “absolutely necessary or appropriate,” not to be confused with the milk of a particular child’s own mother, although that can be equally characterized as absolutely necessary or appropriate!

Well, you get the picture. I doubt existing or prospective consumers of soy milk or almond milk are confused or misled by the labels on the growing list of “alternative to (dairy) milk” products, at least no more than they would be startled upon reading the entry on “milk” in our dictionary. Of course lexical definitions are not necessarily legally dispositive (cf. discussions of ‘ordinary meaning canons’ or references to ‘a new jurisprudence of dictionaries,’ in part inspired by the late Justice Scalia’s frequent cites to dictionaries).

Being—for sundry reasons—a vegan (I like to think that at least one motivation has something to do with the ‘milk of human kindness’) for close to seven years now (most of my adult life I was a vegetarian), it’s not surprising I wholeheartedly agree with Marion Nestle that The National Milk Producers Federation’s attempt to introduce into both bodies of Congress “Dairy Pride Acts” requiring “the FDA to rule that anything labeled milk, cheese, or yogurt has to come from cows,” has everything to do with “marketing, not science,” an attempt to (further) protect the dairy industry from market forces. As Anahad O’Connor writes in The New York Times,

“Facing growing competition from dairy alternatives like almond, soy and coconut milk, the nation’s dairy farmers are fighting back, with an assist from Congress. Their goal: to stop companies from calling their plant-based products yogurt, milk or cheese. Dairy farmers say the practice misleads consumers into thinking that nondairy milk is nutritionally similar to cow’s milk.

A bipartisan group of 32 members of Congress is asking the Food and Drug Administration to crack down on companies that call plant-based beverages ‘milk.’ They say F.D.A. regulations define milk as a ‘lacteal secretion’ obtained by milking ‘one or more healthy cows.’ Proposed legislation from Representative Peter Welch, Democrat of Vermont, and Senator Tammy Baldwin, Democrat of Wisconsin, a state known for its cheese, suggests a slightly broader definition. Their bill would require the F.D.A. to target milk, yogurt and cheese products that do not contain milk from ‘hooved mammals.’ ‘The bottom line for us is that milk is defined by the F.D.A., and we’re saying to the F.D.A.: Enforce your definition,’ Mr. Welch said.

But critics say consumers know exactly what they are buying when they choose almond or soy milk instead of dairy milk. ‘There’s no cow on any of these containers of almond milk or soy milk,’ said Michele Simon, executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association, a trade group representing 70 companies. ‘No one is trying to fool consumers. All they’re trying to do is create a better alternative for people who are looking for that option.’

And what about other nondairy products with dairy names? Will [M]ilk of [M]agnesia, cocoa butter, cream of wheat and peanut butter have to change their names as well?” [….] The remainder of this article is here.

See too Beth Kowitt’s article in Fortune, which begins by noting that “For 40 years, Americans have been drinking less of the traditional stuff—37% less since 1975, according to the most recent USDA figures.”

Incidentally, there’s a bit of irony in the fact that “[i]ncorporating soybeans and their byproducts in the rations for dairy cattle is a fairly common practice. They are an excellent source of essential amino acids and complement most forages. Depending on how they have been processed, soybeans can provide high quality degradable, undegradable and soluble protein, energy, fat, and fiber.”

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Who will harvest the crops?

Migrant farmworkers harvest strawberries near Oxnard, California. Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images

Two recent pieces discuss the probable agricultural effects of Trump’s proposed immigration and trade policies. 

“In the Central Valley, drought fears ease, but farmers contend with a new threat: Trump”

By Robin Abcarian for the Los Angeles Times, February 15, 2017 [sans embedded hyperlinks]

“It’s almost impossible to get a rise from my favorite farmer, Joe Del Bosque, who grows almonds, melons and asparagus here on the perpetually water-challenged west side of the San Joaquin Valley. After years of drought, suddenly everything is green. It’s raining like crazy, the infamous pumps of the Sacramento Delta are working overtime to fill reservoirs to the south and all over the state, dry fields have become muddy lakes.

‘So what are you Westside farmers whining about now?’ I asked Del Bosque when I visited him Monday in his office, a modest double-wide trailer on the edge of an almond orchard off Interstate 5. He chuckled. Farmers are always complaining about something. If they aren’t complaining, it’s because they’re too busy worrying. Del Bosque is, as usual, worried about water. But he’s also worried about immigration, and about President Trump’s vow to deport people who are here illegally. Del Bosque, and just about every grower he knows, depends on migrant labor for harvests.

‘We need a workforce,’ he said. ‘We can’t have immigration come here and round everyone up and deport them. Coupled with building a wall, it will ruin us. It will ruin the whole fruit and vegetable industry.’ [….] California agriculture simply cannot work without migrant labor. For example, the main towns around Del Bosque’s 2,000 acres — Dos Palos, Firebaugh, and Mendota — have a combined population of about 20,000, children included.

‘When I start harvesting my melons,’ Del Bosque said, ‘I need 300 people. And there’s like six other melon guys who need 300 people, and one probably needs 900. So we need around 3,000 people to harvest. Then, the tomato guys need people, the grape guys need people and the garlic guys need people. There are not enough people in these little towns for that seasonal surge in labor needs. That’s why we’re dependent on people who come from somewhere else.’

Like Mexico. [….] Mexican laborers, after all, put fresh fruit and vegetables on all of our tables. I wonder if President Trump even knows where his food comes from.” The full article is here.

*           *           * 

“Farmers Supported Trump — His Proposals Have Them Thinking Again”

Farmworkers, employers and trade groups are all concerned with Trump’s plans on immigration and trade.

By Joseph Erbentraut, The Huffington Post, 2/15/2017 [sans embedded hyperlinks] (Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food, water, agriculture and our climate.)

“When President Donald Trump was elected last fall, it was with an apparent majority of the nation’s farmers behind him. But now, three weeks since Trump’s inauguration, some of those farmers appear to be having second thoughts. Dairy farmers and fruit and vegetable growers, both of whom rely heavily on an immigrant workforce to harvest their goods, are expressing fears that Trump’s promise to up immigration enforcement and build a border wall with Mexico could eliminate much of its workforce.

Commodity farmers are also concerned that a 20-percent import tax on Mexican goods ― an idea the Trump administration has floated ― could hobble their businesses. Many agriculture industry groups are similarly dismayed by plans to jettison both the Trans-Pacific Partnership and North American Free Trade Agreement. Of course, the impact of these proposed actions won’t stop at the farm. If they are carried out, American eaters — as well as the environment — could bear that brunt as well. Here’s how: 

Higher Food Prices at the Grocery Store

If stepped-up immigration enforcement efforts target farmworkers, sectors of the farming industry that rely on immigrant workers will be affected the most. Between 50 and 70 percent of the nation’s farmworkers working for fresh produce growers and dairy farms are undocumented. If these sectors lose a significant amount of their existing immigrant workforce, they will need to raise wages to attract replacement workers and attracting them would be no easy task.

Farm groups have repeatedly emphasized that U.S.-born workers have shown little interest in the grueling work and the industry already says it’s facing a severe labor shortage due to the previous administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants. As a result, farmworker wages have been rising with demand in recent years, though their pay still averages about $12 an hour.

Additional farm labor costs would likely be passed on to consumers. A 2015 report commissioned by the National Milk Producers Federation and produced by Texas A&M University researchers found that a total loss of the industry’s immigrant workforce would result in a 90-percent surge in retail milk prices. Factoring in the current national average retail price of milk, that means a gallon of conventional milk would cost $5.42 and a gallon of organic milk would cost $9.38 under such a scenario. ‘We know that nobody wants to pay $8 for a gallon of milk and certainly nobody wants a food product like milk to come from foreign countries,’ Jaime Castaneda, NMPF senior vice president in strategic initiatives and trade policy, told The Huffington Post. ‘We need to find a balance here.’

Additional research has shown that a similar price increase, linked to reduced output, would likely happen with labor-intensive food products like fruits, vegetables and tree nuts. A 2012 report from U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers found that if 5.8 million undocumented farmworkers left the industry, the result would be less output, fewer exports and increased wages ― costs, again, to be passed on to consumers. Similarly, an analysis commissioned by the American Farm Bureau Foundation found that the exit of immigrant farmworkers could increase food prices by an average of 5 to 6 percent. Such increases could hit low-income households ― which already struggle to afford fresh fruits and vegetables ― particularly hard, especially if accompanied by rumored cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. [….] 

Increased Food Waste on Farms

A heightened farm labor crisis could also mean more crops left in the fields to rot, hurting farmers’ bottom lines in addition to releasing climate change-accelerating methane into the atmosphere. This is a concern for Joshua Morgenthau, owner and operator of Fishkill Farms, a small-scale farm and apple orchard located in Hopewell Junction, New York. Morgenthau regularly places job advertisements aimed at interested applicants of all backgrounds, including U.S.-born workers. But, like many farm employers, he says he rarely receives any responses. Domestic workers, he says, simply don’t appear to be willing to do this work. [….]

‘Crops will go unharvested because of the shortfall of qualified labor,’ Morgenthau told HuffPost. ‘Our food will rot in the fields and the price of local produce will skyrocket.’” [….] The full article is here. 

Recommended Reading:
  • Alamillo, José. Making Lemonade out of Lemons: Mexican American Labor and Leisure in a California Town, 1880-1960 (University of Illinois Press, 2006). 
  • Andrés, Benny J., Jr. Power and Control in the Imperial Valley: Nature, Agribusiness, and Workers on the California Borderland, 1900-1940 (Texas A&M University Press, 2015). 
  • Barajas, Frank P. Curious Unions: Mexican American Workers and Resistance in Oxnard, California, 1898-1961 (University of Nebraska Press, 2012). 
  • Bardacke, Frank. Trampling Out the Vintage: César Chávez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers (Verso, 2011). 
  • Barger, W.K. and Ernesto M. Reza. The Farm Labor Movement in the Midwest: Social Change and Adaptation among Migrant Farmworkers (University of Texas Press, 1994). 
  • Barry, Brian and Robert E. Goodin, eds. Free Movement: Ethical issues in the transnational migration of people and of money (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1992). 
  • Bishop, Charles E., ed. Farm Labor in the United States (Columbia University Press, 1967).  
  • Calavita, Kitty. Inside the State: The Bracero Program, Immigration, and the I.N.S. (Quid Pro Books, 2010 ed.).  
  • Cholewinski, Ryszard, Richard Perruchoud and Euan MacDonald, eds. International Migration Law: Developing Paradigms and Key Challenges (T.M.C. Asser Press, 2007). 
  • Daniel, Cletus E. Bitter Harvest: A History of California Farmworkers, 1870-1941 (Cornell University Press, 1981).  
  • Day, Mark. Forty Acres: César Chávez and the Farm Workers (Praeger Publishers, 1971).  
  • De León, Jason. The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail (University of California Press, 2015). 
  • Fisher, Lloyd. The Harvest Labor Market in California (Harvard University Press, 1953).  
  • Flores, Lori A. Grounds for Dreaming: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the California Farmworker Movement (Yale University Press, 2016).  
  • Friedland, William H., Amy E. Barton, and Robert J. Thomas. Manufacturing Green Gold: Capital, Labor, and Technology in the Lettuce Industry (Cambridge University Press, 1981).  
  • Galarza, Ernesto. Merchants of Labor: The Mexican Bracero Story (McNally and Loftin, 1964).  
  • Galarza, Ernesto. Farm Workers and Agri-Business in California, 1947-60 (University of Notre Dame Press, 1977).  
  • Goldfarb, Ronald L. Migrant Farm Workers: A Caste of Despair (Iowa State University Press, 1981).  
  • González, Gilbert. Labor and Community: Mexican Citrus Worker Villages in a Southern California County, 1900-1950 (University of Illinois Press, 1994).  
  • González, Gilbert. Guest Workers or Colonized Labor? Mexican Labor Immigration to the United States (Routledge, 2nd ed., 2013).  
  • Gonzales, Roberto G. Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America (University of California Press, 2016). 
  • Griffith, David and Edward Kissam. Working Poor: Farmworkers in the United States (Temple University Press, 1995). 
  • Guchteneire, Paul de, Antoine Pecoud, and Ryszard Cholewinski, eds. Migration and Human Rights: The United Nations Convention on Migrant Workers’ Rights (Cambridge University Press, 2009). 
  • Gutiérrez, David G. Walls and Mirrors: Mexican Americans, Mexican Immigrants, and the Politics of Ethnicity (University of California Press, 1995).  
  • Jenkins, J. Craig. The Politics of Insurgency: The Farm Worker Movement in the 1960s (Columbia University Press, 1985).  
  • Kapuy, Klaus. The Social Security Position of Irregular Migrant Workers: New Insights from National Social Security Law and International Law (Intersentia, 2011). 
  • Loza, Mireya. Defiant Braceros: How Migrant Workers Fought for Racial, Sexual, and Political Freedom (University of North Carolina Press, 2016). 
  • Majka, Linda C. and Theo J. Majka. Farm Workers, Agribusiness, and the State (Temple University Press, 1982).  
  • Martin, Philip R. Promise Unfulfilled: Unions, Immigration, and the Farm Workers (Cornell University Press, 2003).  
  • Martin, Philip and David Martin. The Endless Quest: Helping America’s Farmworkers (Westview Press, 1994).  
  • McWilliams, Carey. Factories in the Fields: The Story of Migratory Farm Labor in California (University of California Press, 1939). 
  • Meister, Dick and Anne Loftis. A Long Time Coming: The Struggle to Unionize America’s Farm Workers (Macmillan, 1977).  
  • Mitchell, Don. The Lie of the Land: Migrant Workers and the California Landscape (University of Minnesota Press, 1996).  
  • Mitchell, Don. They Saved the Crops: Labor, Landscape, and the Struggle over Industrial Farming in Bracero-Era California (University of Georgia Press, 2012).  
  • Mooney, Patrick and Theo J. Majka. Farmers’ and Farmworkers’ Movements: Social Protest in American Agriculture (Twayne, 1995).  
  • Nahmias, Rick. The Migrant Project: Contemporary California Farm Workers (University of New Mexico Press, 2008).  
  • Neuburger, Bruce. Lettuce Wars: Ten Years of Work and Struggle in the Fields of California (Monthly Review Press, 2013). 
  • Pawel, Miriam. The Union of Their Dreams: Power, Hope, and Struggle in Cesar Chavez’s Farm Worker Movement (Bloomsbury Press, 2009). 
  • Rothenberg, Daniel. With These Hands: The Hidden World of Migrant Farmworkers Today (University of California Press, 1998).  
  • Sifuentez, Mario Jimenez. Of Forests and Fields: Mexican Labor in the Pacific Northwest (Rutgers University Press, 2016).  
  • Sosnick, Stephen H. Hired Hands: Seasonal Farm Workers in the United States (McNally & Loftin, 1978).  
  • Thompson, Charles D., Jr. and Melinda F. Wiggins, eds. The Human Cost of Food: Farmworkers’ Lives, Labor, and Advocacy (University of Texas Press, 2002).  
  • Tsu, Cecilia M. Garden of the World: Asian Immigrants and the Making of Agriculture in California’s Santa Clara Valley (Oxford University Press, 2013).  
  • Valdes, Dionicio. Organized Agriculture and the Labor Movement Before the UFW: Puerto Rico, Hawai’i, and California (University of Texas Press, 2011).
  • Walker, Richard A. The Conquest of Bread: 150 Years of Agribusiness in California (The New Press, 2004).
  • Watt, Alan J. Farm Workers and the Churches: The Movement in California and Texas (Texas A&M University Press, 2010). 
  • Wells, Miriam J. Strawberry Fields: Politics, Class, and Work in California Agriculture (Cornell University Press, 1986).