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Major Northeast tomato grower ends crop over migrant shortage
Philly.com ^ | Mar. 24, 2008 | MICHAEL RUBINKAM

Posted on 03/24/2008 3:39:21 PM PDT by raybbr

CLARKS SUMMIT, Pa. - Saying the nation's immigration system is broken, Pennsylvania's largest grower of fresh-to-market tomatoes announced Monday he will no longer produce the crop because he can't find enough workers to harvest it.

Keith Eckel, 61, a fourth-generation farmer and the owner of Fred W. Eckel Sons Farms, said he saw a dramatic decline last summer in the number of migrant workers who showed up to pick tomatoes at his 2,000-acre farm in northeastern Pennsylvania.

He said Congress' failure to approve comprehensive immigration reform had hindered his ability to hire enough workers to get his crop to the market. Most of Eckel's workers came from Mexico.

"There are a number of workers hesitant to travel, legal or illegal, because of the scrutiny they are now under," said Eckel, whose tomatoes have been shipped to supermarkets and restaurants throughout the eastern United States. "So there are less workers crossing state lines."

Eckel, who planted 2.2 million tomato plants last year, said he also will stop growing pumpkins and plant half as much sweet corn as usual, resulting in a loss of nearly 175 jobs.

Eckel, one of the largest growers of fresh-market tomatoes in the Northeast, said it cost him $1.5 million to $2 million to plant and harvest a tomato crop , too much of an investment to risk not having enough workers at harvest time.

"The system to provide our labor is broken and the emotion surrounding the immigration issue is standing in the way of those in the political arena moving forward to solve it," Eckel told a news conference at his farm in Clarks Summit.

(Excerpt) Read more at philly.com ...


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Government
KEYWORDS: aliens
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It has become the norm to blame the govt. for every failure.
1 posted on 03/24/2008 3:39:22 PM PDT by raybbr
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To: raybbr

um - lemme guess what hes gonna grow now....biofuel?


2 posted on 03/24/2008 3:42:27 PM PDT by Revelation 911
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To: raybbr

We have 20-40 mil illegals, along with the legal immigrants, guest worker programs, etc. and we can’t get some measley tomatos harvested? He is right, the system is broken but not the way he thinks it is broken.


3 posted on 03/24/2008 3:42:28 PM PDT by sheana
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To: raybbr
Sooo... Let me see if I get this right - a possible employer complains that because the ‘’immigration system’’ is broken, he can't get his crop harvested. I wonder if he'd care to share the advertisements he put out, or the employment agencies he contacted? No? So..what we have here is someone who didn't really try, doesn't really care, just wants to come up with a good excuse for changing products and make a political statement.
4 posted on 03/24/2008 3:44:37 PM PDT by kingu (Party for rent - conservative opinions not required.)
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To: raybbr
"There are a number of workers hesitant to travel, legal or illegal, because of the scrutiny they are now under"

More dishonest conflating of legal and illegal in order to play the victim card.

If the government stopped paying people not to work there would be plenty of help available.

5 posted on 03/24/2008 3:46:54 PM PDT by Iron Munro (Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.)
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To: raybbr

Let Eckel and other hirers of illegals go belly up. Too bad ICE didn’t raid him during an earlier harvest.


6 posted on 03/24/2008 3:46:55 PM PDT by afnamvet
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To: raybbr

Part of HIS job is to set a salary that will attract sufficient labor. Looks like a poor immigration strategy had been subsidizing the poor business practices of a (soon to be) poor businessman. Adapt or die.


7 posted on 03/24/2008 3:46:59 PM PDT by M203M4 (True Universal Suffrage: Pets of dead illegal-immigrant felons voting Democrat (twice))
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To: raybbr

Hmm. Lets see now.

How did we ever grow & harvest food and grain without 20 million illegal immigrants, again?

Since when did Pa. ever have a large immigrant population anyway, other than the last decade?


8 posted on 03/24/2008 3:47:23 PM PDT by bill1952 (I will vote for McCain if he resigns his Senate seat before this election.)
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To: raybbr
If your profit margin relies on a criminal conspiracy to suppress wages, then you deserve to be out of business.

Employ illegals and lose your business should be the law of the land.

9 posted on 03/24/2008 3:47:29 PM PDT by Dr.Zoidberg (Mohammedanism - Bringing you only the best of the 6th century for fourteen hundred years.)
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To: raybbr

Sounds like a passage from Atlas Shrugged.


10 posted on 03/24/2008 3:47:40 PM PDT by Popman
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To: raybbr

Isn’t that what summer vacation is for?


11 posted on 03/24/2008 3:48:08 PM PDT by stayathomemom
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To: raybbr
Guess lawn mowing pays better.

ML/NJ

12 posted on 03/24/2008 3:49:36 PM PDT by ml/nj
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To: raybbr
"A lot of people think with immigration that we're talking about immigrants taking jobs from others. Let me tell you, there is no local labor that is going to go out and harvest those tomatoes in 90-degree temperatures except our immigrant labor," Eckel said. "They come here to do a job that no one else will do in this country."

I believe Australia solved its grape picking problem by having engineers design machines to do the work. Imagine that. An Aussie gets to ride around on a mechanical harvester that does all the hard work. I'll bet they have air conditioning. I think they are using mechanical harvesters to pick grapes in California.

If Eckel wasn't such a cheap bsatrad resorting to slave wage immigrants, he could help the American economy improve productivity through innovation and technology. There is no shortage of illegal immigrants. The ones that are here want more money than he is willing to pay out.

13 posted on 03/24/2008 3:49:58 PM PDT by LoneRangerMassachusetts
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To: raybbr

14 posted on 03/24/2008 3:50:05 PM PDT by rednesss (Fred Thompson - 2008)
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To: Big Tom

IOW you can only find success while breaking the rules. Thanks for generations of productivity but now you have to make way for more efficient, legal operations.

15 posted on 03/24/2008 3:51:09 PM PDT by I see my hands (_8(|)
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To: raybbr

Folks like Mr. Eckel helped create this problem. Now he has the audacity to blame the government when it bites him in the ass. He’s obviously a “compassionate” conservative.


16 posted on 03/24/2008 3:51:11 PM PDT by LiberConservative ("Stimulus" = $millions$ for China)
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To: raybbr

Why doesn’t he use the same harvesting machines we use in California?


17 posted on 03/24/2008 3:52:06 PM PDT by PeterFinn (I am not voting for McCain. No way, no how.)
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To: raybbr

All he knows is he wants his illegal alien cheap labor and the rest can go to hell

We are inundated with illegal aliens but too many have figured out how to stay here without picking his tomatoes. If there was enforcement in other industries there would be plenty of illegals to pick crops

If McCain and Congress legalized 20 million illegal aliens what makes this guy think he will get his farm laborers?


18 posted on 03/24/2008 3:53:05 PM PDT by dennisw (Never bet on a false prophet! <<<||>>> Never bet on Islam!)
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To: raybbr

Why should they work when they can just stay home and collect welfare and food stamps?


19 posted on 03/24/2008 3:53:38 PM PDT by Fido969 ("The hardest thing in the world to understand is income tax." - Albert Einstein)
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To: raybbr
...because he can't find enough workers to harvest it.

How sympathetic would this farmer sound if he said, "I can't find enough people to exploit and pay sh*t wages to."

The real phrase should be "...enough CHEAP workers".

This idiotic objection came up in California when the Bracero Program ended. The Braceros were replaced by harvesting machines. I rode the FMC tomato harvester and watched it do what the farmers said couldn't be done.

We'll never know if technology can do this work because idiots feel it is easier to exploit a whole class of people.

Ok so the price of tomatoes will skyrocket to $7/lb. Maybe that is the real price of tomatoes, not the illegal labor subsidized price.

20 posted on 03/24/2008 3:55:49 PM PDT by AreaMan (You can send 'em to school but you can't make 'em think.)
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To: raybbr

Legalize the 20 million ( min wage, ss tax, state withholding, medical ) and this guy will scream he still needs illegals to work for the few scheckels he tosses them!


21 posted on 03/24/2008 3:55:59 PM PDT by Kakaze (Exterminate Islamofacism and apologize for nothing.....except not doing it sooner!)
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To: kingu
...he can't get his crop harvested. I wonder if he'd care to share the advertisements he put out, or the employment agencies he contacted? No? So..what we have here is someone who didn't really try, doesn't really care, just wants to come up with a good excuse for changing products and make a political statement.

Obviously, you have never put your money on the line to try and turn a profit.

If you think this farmer is making a political statement and didn't try to find workers, your immigration psychosis is at a dangerous level.

This country has a SERIOUS problem with illegal immigrant, but doing NOTHING is just as bad.

Congress is doing this country a serious disservice to it's citizens by not addressing this issue in a balanced sensible fashion

22 posted on 03/24/2008 3:56:22 PM PDT by Popman
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To: raybbr

So his solution was to have the gubmint bring in more workers. His next step would have to be make the gubmint prevent those workers from going to construction jobs which pay better and aren’t as back breaking for said workers. Does that about cover it?


23 posted on 03/24/2008 3:56:26 PM PDT by Hillarys Gate Cult (The man who said "there's no such thing as a stupid question" has never talked to Helen Thomas.)
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To: raybbr

boo hoo! I can’t pay slave wages so I’ll stop growing ‘maters. Boo hoo!


24 posted on 03/24/2008 3:58:11 PM PDT by griffin (Love Jesus, No Fear!)
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To: raybbr

Wonder how hard he has tried. Nearly $17 an hour is a pretty high wage. When I was growing up in the sixties, we kids hired ourselves out to do harvest work. The whole school district would shut down for two to three weeks to allow everyone to work. We would choose a picking partner, dress in warm clothes (it was usually early October) and go to the designated pickup place (often the schoolyard) to wait for some farmer to pick us, load us in the back of his pickup and drive us to the fields. We worked from dawn to dusk, making at first, $.07 per hundredweight of potatoes picked and bagged. The first year I was seven years old and my partner and I each used baskets designed to hold fifty pounds of potatoes, to be dumped into gunny sacks which held two baskets’ worth of potatoes. We earned, together, $1.63 for that first day’s labor—partly because our arms were too short to properly hold the gunny sack and partly because we were too little to lift 50 pounds at a time. Later I worked on combines where pay was more like $1.50 an hour. If we were lucky we worked everyday for the whole harvest break and then went back to school with new clothes and Christmas shopping money.

There were plenty of migrant workers doing the same thing, making a lot more money, but it didn’t seem there was much of a shortage of Gringos working also. It’s a different world, though. My kids turn their noses up at fast food jobs or retail jobs as “beneath” them.


25 posted on 03/24/2008 3:58:40 PM PDT by caseinpoint (Don't get thickly involved in thin things.)
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To: Popman

“This country has a SERIOUS problem with illegal immigrant, but doing NOTHING is just as bad.”

Bravo Sierra


26 posted on 03/24/2008 3:59:07 PM PDT by griffin (Love Jesus, No Fear!)
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To: raybbr

The fields beside my parents NC place produce millions of tomatoes each year. A few years ago the grower sold out to a group of Mexican pickers who cleaned it up and made it more productive than it’s ever been.


27 posted on 03/24/2008 3:59:39 PM PDT by Rebelbase
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To: LiberConservative

“Folks like Mr. Eckel helped create this problem.”

Amen.


28 posted on 03/24/2008 4:00:26 PM PDT by griffin (Love Jesus, No Fear!)
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To: M203M4
Part of HIS job is to set a salary that will attract sufficient labor. Looks like a poor immigration strategy had been subsidizing the poor business practices of a (soon to be) poor businessman. Adapt or die.

FOURTH GENERATION or this farm, That would be around a 100 years, so he knows the financial story far better than anyone else here.

You response is accurate, but incomplete.

He is forced to compete with other farmers who aren't hassled about the status of THEIR workers.

The solution is to enforce the immigration laws evenly.

29 posted on 03/24/2008 4:01:52 PM PDT by Balding_Eagle (If America falls, darkness will cover the face of the earth for a thousand years.)
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To: raybbr

why would a legal worker be afraid to cross state lines ?
perhaps this farmer doesn’t want to pay a decent wage...


30 posted on 03/24/2008 4:02:08 PM PDT by stylin19a
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To: griffin
“This country has a SERIOUS problem with illegal immigrant, but doing NOTHING is just as bad.”

Exactly what part of that statement is BS?

We do have a serious illegal immigrant problem, our borders are being overrun

Congress has done nothing palpable to the American public to address this problem

McCain / Kennedy was not he answer

31 posted on 03/24/2008 4:02:42 PM PDT by Popman
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To: raybbr; Gabz; nw_arizona_granny

Tomatoes can grow inside too!

http://breederville.com/auction/blogspermalink.php?permalink=1&blog=1
Little Space? Grow Vegetables inside


32 posted on 03/24/2008 4:04:28 PM PDT by Calpernia (Hunters Rangers - Raising the Bar of Integrity http://www.barofintegrity.us)
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Comment #33 Removed by Moderator

To: Rebelbase

What are the odds this “farmer” is a millionaire but is too cheap to pay Americans a decent wage. And an earlier poster is probably spot on — my bet is he plants corn for fuel and gets his government subsidy to boot.


34 posted on 03/24/2008 4:05:38 PM PDT by doosee
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To: Popman
Sorry, Popman, I'm not buying it.
What would it take to make this farmer more successful? 40 million illegals? Plain fact is is that he can't find the workers at the wage he's paying. Our problems with illegal trespassers have nothing to do with it.
35 posted on 03/24/2008 4:05:48 PM PDT by frankenMonkey (101st Airborne Army Dad)
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To: raybbr

I emailed the newspaper with the following: RE: Farmer Keith Eckel to end tomato planting due to decrease in illegal migrant workers. Did Michael Rubinkam ask Eckel whether he had actually tried to advertise locally/nationally for laborers for this or last season? I can guarantee you that my 17 year old son, who now works as a dishwasher for minimum wage, would gladly pick tomatoes for $16 per hour. I also would consider that job over the high-stress job I now have, which does not pay as much. Me, Johnstown, PA


36 posted on 03/24/2008 4:06:06 PM PDT by Optimom
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To: raybbr

Didn’t McLame say that gringos wouldn’t pick lettuce for $50 an hour?

Bet we’ll pick tomatoes for it!


37 posted on 03/24/2008 4:08:17 PM PDT by PalmettoMason ( I 'm a TWP! (Typical White Person, whatever THAT is!))
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Comment #38 Removed by Moderator

To: caseinpoint

THANK YOU! Back in my day we picked strawberries and ‘pickles’. We were happy to earn our own money. NOW, I hear about illegals who don’t mind doing the jobs I used to do.


39 posted on 03/24/2008 4:10:31 PM PDT by mommadooo3 (Old concept in justice. If the law won't take care of it, it's just us.)
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To: Revelation 911

“um - lemme guess what hes gonna grow now....biofuel?”

Bingo!!

Make more money that way than upping labor pay a couple of bucks an hour.


40 posted on 03/24/2008 4:11:00 PM PDT by Shermy
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To: raybbr

He complains about the government, but I don’t see him refusing those farm subsidies.

Keith and Fred Eckel have collected more farm subsidy money than than anyone else in Clarks Summit, Pa from 1995 to 2005. Top two slots, as a matter of fact.

$271,853.49 plus $142,702.39.

http://farm.ewg.org/farm/addrsearch.php?s=yup&stab=PA&city=CLARKS+SUMMIT&c=See+Recipients&zip=&last=&first=&fullname=


41 posted on 03/24/2008 4:11:21 PM PDT by BykrBayb (In memory of my Friend T'wit, who taught me much. )
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To: raybbr
OK, I'm gonna give away my age here.

I picked tomatoes after the ex dropped me and kids off in TN and took off (that's one reason for being the ex) and I needed money to get back home. My kids helped pick, and they were 7 and 8 1/2 years old. We picked from 6 a.m. until dark. The crews were all US citizens, mostly teenagers and a few older gentlemen, none hispanic.

As kids from about age 12, my brothers and I picked strawberries, peaches, apples, watermelons, cataloupes, detassled corn, and bucked bales during summer break-whatever work we could get. I milked 75 cows for an elderly farmer who couldn't do it anymore my last 2 years in high school-before and after school. That included cleaning tanks, rounding up the cows, feeding the cows, etc. One brother put himself through college cleaning tanks in a cheese factory. My job was cushy compared to his.

And, I'm female.

If folks in this country get hungry enough, they will work. Until then...well, I don't know what to think about our spoiledness anymore.

42 posted on 03/24/2008 4:11:50 PM PDT by CH3CN
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To: frankenMonkey
Plain fact is is that he can't find the workers at the wage he's paying.

I didn't find that in the article. He claims he can't find workers, not he could not pay them enough.

But at some point, the doesn't pay to plant if you have to pay wages to don't leave you any profits

43 posted on 03/24/2008 4:12:48 PM PDT by Popman
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Comment #44 Removed by Moderator

To: Popman
Actually, quite a lot is being done, by Congress doing nothing.

You're familiar with the old adage: "Necessity is the mother of invention"? Well, robotics and mechanical solutions are in the works for a whole lot of harvests where it was previously deemed impossible.

I recall seeing a "Modern Marvels" on harvesting equipment, where they brought up the topic of illegal immigration, and migrant worker shortages, and how they were driving innovation.

I'll take a little higher price for tomatoes or whatever in the short term while the farmers and farm equipment mfg's, improvise, adapt and overcome. Rather than rely on cheap slave (illegal) labor.

45 posted on 03/24/2008 4:17:09 PM PDT by AFreeBird
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To: stayathomemom
Isn’t that what summer vacation is for?

Bingo! We have a winner!

Nailed that right on the head. That used to be considered the traditional student job.

46 posted on 03/24/2008 4:18:01 PM PDT by eldoradude (Think for yourself!)
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To: kingu

You would think the 4H groups would be leveraged for harvesting.


47 posted on 03/24/2008 4:18:06 PM PDT by Calpernia (Hunters Rangers - Raising the Bar of Integrity http://www.barofintegrity.us)
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To: raybbr

Ever grow tomatoes? It’s about the most labor intensive crop on the face of the earth. A neighbor of mine grows thirty acres. He has to employ around fifteen people to manage the crop over about three months. That’s just for thirty acres! Too much water, too little water, too much sun, too little sun, cracking, blistering, bugs, fungus, and picking from each plant when the fruits are just right is endless. He drives a truck load of around 2000lbs to markets in Chicago from July thru September almost every day. Good summer job for college kids. $8.00 per hour.


48 posted on 03/24/2008 4:19:03 PM PDT by blackdog
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To: mommadooo3

Well, another generation and the kids of those illegals won’t do it. The work ethic is an endangered species. Thanks for picking strawberries and cukes. While my work was labor-intensive, it was at least nice and cool. Harvest back then didn’t start until at least one good frost had killed the vines. Then it was breakneck speed to harvest before a killer frost got down to the potatoes themselves. I understand things have changed since then, with potatoes being harvested earlier in order to cut down the bruising that increases with the cold. I know it increased our bruises.

I remember (boy am I getting nostalgic) one year in high school when I returned to school after three weeks on a combine. I became close with an adult woman on my crew and one evening I was doing a Candy Striper shift at our hospital when I saw her in the emergency room. She was lying on a gurney, holding a wad of cloth on her hand. She smiled when she saw me and then whipped off the bandage to show me her index finger now an inch shorter than that morning. Combines were dangerous to fingers. More than once a glove would be ripped off or torn, just missing fingers. She said she got careless.

Life was tough back then but the people were even tougher.


49 posted on 03/24/2008 4:22:48 PM PDT by caseinpoint (Don't get thickly involved in thin things.)
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To: raybbr
On the farm worker myth...

Illegal Immigration and Low Wage Labor

50 posted on 03/24/2008 4:25:19 PM PDT by mewzilla (In politics the middle way is none at all. John Adams)
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