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Letter to the Editor

Let US farmers continue to feed Americans!


web posted December 12, 2011

Dear Editor,
Quite often I hear people talking about who grows the food they eat and where it comes from. Two hundred years ago, this was not a topic for discussion as the great majority of the population was still on the farm. Today, however, is a different story!  Most Americans do not have any idea what goes into producing the food  they consume on a daily basis.

Today, less than 1% of the U.S. population is involved in the agriculture industry. This fact poses many problems for our food supply. With so few of our population working in agriculture, who is going to harvest the fruits and vegetables we eat? With most Americans unwilling to take such jobs, foreign workers seem to be the best answer to this problem, but are they really?
   
I am a peach grower in South Carolina and labor issues are one of the biggest problems that I face today. Today’s farmer is charged with producing a quality product for an affordable price, but what the consumer doesn’t realize is the cost of production including labor is constantly on the increase. As farmers try to stay alive in our weakening economy, it is harder to grow produce in an economical manner.  If farmers continue to be burdened with labor regulations, the costs of foods we enjoy will rise higher and higher.
   
Attempts have been made at guest worker programs that supply the agriculture industry with workers, but they have all failed. E-Verify is one of the newest attempts to validate the legality of farm workers. However, I am afraid it is going to frighten what few workers farmers do have available. My farm uses the H2A guest worker program. This program allows us to get work visas in order to hire workers legally from foreign countries. 

The problem with this program is that it is extremely expensive and most farmers cannot afford to use it. I support guest worker programs but our policy makers must implement programs that will be cost effective, efficient, and will not put farmers out of business.
   
And so I leave you with this question- would you chose to have the food you feed your family grown on fertile soils in America under the governance of the USDA and harvested by lawfully admitted foreign nationals? Or will you accept putting food on your dinner table tonight grown in a foreign country with unknown production practices and food safety protocols?

Understand that either way , the food will still be harvested by a foreign worker. I sincerely hope Congress chooses to ensure American farmers will continue to feed Americans at home, with plenty left over to feed much of the rest of the world.
     

Jason Rodgers
Johnston, SC






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