new FERN investigation, published Friday in collaboration with Mother Jones, reporters Esther Honig and Ted Genoways tell the stories of workers in America's meatpacking plants who are facing high rates of Covid-19 — and of the industry's chilling disregard for its workforce. (No paywall)
In Central America's Dry Corridor, a historically drought-prone region that stretches from Mexico to Panama and is home to 10.5 million people, climate change is producing longer and more frequent dry spells and forcing a growing number of farmers to attempt to migrate to the U.S., according to FERN's latest story, published with The Weather Channel. (No paywall)
Four days after defeating the farm bill, the House quietly delayed Speaker Paul Ryan's attempt to revive the bill until June 22, with GOP leaders hoping that hardline Republicans will vote for it the second time. Members of the House Freedom Caucus provided the decisive votes against the farm bill to underline their demand for a roll call on immigration controls. (No paywall)
The Government Accountability Office urged federal regulators, in the words of Harvest Public Media, "to better protect meatpacking workers, who are often exposed to dangerous chemicals, not allowed bathroom breaks and refused medical treatment." The GAO report said workers sometimes decide not to report problems for fear of retaliation, making it harder for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to get a clear picture of conditions.
At nearly the same time Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was calming fears of a downturn in U.S.-Mexico agricultural trade, some Mexican farm groups demanded that agriculture be left out of the "new NAFTA" negotiations that begin in 16 days.
The Western Growers Association, speaking for produce growers in Arizona, California and Colorado, says immigration reform should go hand in hand with the Trump administration's priority of deporting undocumented immigrants guilty of serious crimes. Western Growers chief executive Tom Nassif said, "Much of our [U.S.] agricultural productivity is owed to the hard work of foreign hands, in particular the harvesting of our nutritious fruits and vegetables."
California farms are becoming the testing ground for the argument that wages and job prospects for American workers will improve when undocumented immigrants are not available. "So far, the results aren't encouraging for farmers or domestic workers," says the Los Angeles Times, despite offers of higher pay.
President Trump proposed $1.5 billion to begin construction this year of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico — a signature promise of his campaign — ramping up to $2.6 billion in the fiscal year that opens on Oct. 1. The wall would be a concrete part of Trump’s policy of strict enforcement of immigration laws, which could drain the farm labor pool because many farm workers are believed to be undocumented.