While We're On The Subject...
Machines put laborers' way of life, work in perilNow for the "thanks for making my point for me" portion of the program...
In the not-so-distant future, many farm workers may lose their jobs to farm machinery that continues to chop into the local industry.
Industry experts said the cost-benefit analysis farmers face is fairly simple. At a time when global markets are exerting pressure on local growers, machinery offers the cost savings critical to survival.
Jim Hill, a Las Cruces-area farmer and owner of a farm machinery dealership, Hill Equipment, said his own chile-picking machine cuts costs by as much as 9 cents per pound, or 30 percent.
Another machine Hill sells can cut the cost of thinning chile crops to $35 an acre, compared with between $75 and $150 to thin by hand, according to the recently dissolved New Mexico Chile Task Force that helped develop the thinner.
The thinner costs about $95,000, according to Cemco Turbo, the company that manufactures them in Belen, N.M. But Hill said the machine will pay for itself in a year on a 200-acre chile farm.
"One of those machines will displace 80 workers," said Carlos Marentes, executive director of the Centro De Los Trabajadores Agrícolas Fronterizos, referring specifically to the thinning machine.Or, instead of "dying in the fields" perhaps they could, you know, and I realize how crazy this sounds, go home!
Marentes said he's already seen the impact of farming mechanization on the 8,000 farm workers registered with his center. Machines are shortening the farming season, causing workers to move to other areas more quickly and earn less money each year. He said that in 1986, farm workers earned about $7,000 annually. Two decades later, they earn $6,300 annually, he said.
"The jobs will decrease and there will be more competition amongst the workers, which creates a situation where workers are desperate and willing to work for anything," he said.
Some workers will be able to find jobs on smaller farms that cannot afford the machinery, but many will have to take jobs in other parts of the country, Marentes said. Still others may be forced to look for other work, which could prove impossible.
"It's the only thing they know," he said of some workers who come from rural areas in Mexico and have only four years of basic education. "A lot of them will die in the fields."
Let me ask the question again: Are we a sovereign nation or merely a jobs program for the third world?
We need to choose, and soon!
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