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Farm Workers

January 13, 1988

Russell L. Williams, president of Agricultural Producers of Valencia, cites the experience of Washington and Oregon strawberry growers who allegedly suffered heavy losses because of a labor shortage at harvest time (Letters, Dec. 17). This shortage, he claims, was due primarily to the new immigration law. He says nothing of the growers' attempts to secure native labor. Was such an attempt made? Also, what was the final economic effect under the law of supply and demand on the loss of a part of the large crop this year?

Williams might have mentioned the excess labor supply in the Wenatchee, Wash., area at apple harvest time. According to one news report, a surplus of agricultural workers numbering in the thousands developed there as a result of advertisements for farm workers to harvest a bumper crop. All of this caused much hardship to workers drawn to the area and then stranded without work or funds.

There is much to be said for farmers who can't get help at harvest time, but there are two sides to this coin. Proper recruitment efforts on a planned basis could eliminate the claimed need for illegals.

The truth of the matter is that agribusiness does not want American labor, which is apt to be organized and more demanding of fair treatment than exploitable illegals. Their arguments sound like the ones advanced by 18th- and 19th-Century slave owners. These people asked for cheap labor no matter what the toll in human suffering and ill effects to the entire social and economic fabric of society.

JOHN C. DAVIS

Irvine

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