Thursday, July 29, 2010

Senator DoGood and Foreign Vegetables

First, thank you to everyone who sent email congratulating me on my first blog. And, I'm not sure what to say to the client who reminded me that, in fact, I AM being paid to be one of those "vineyard consultants" I slammed. (of course I know exactly what to say, but its not nice) Apparently, I'm a pain in the butt just like the rest of them. Oh, well.

On to today's rant.....

A piece of legislation drafted by a well-meaning politico was recently vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger (ok, rule #1 - all politicians should have a name that 3 out of 4 people can spell). The bill proposed farm labor be paid time-and-a-half for work over 8 hours. Sounds like the right thing to do, but because farming is seasonal and we don't employ labor all year round, laborers tend to grab all the hours we give them when we can, even if it makes for a long day. Like everyone else, they have bills to pay. They've figured out the math equation obvious to everyone except politicians:

Work = money

Now, I'm not dumb. I'm not going to take sides on this issue, especially here in my blog. I've seen how people (who have nothing else to do) spend all day commenting on blogs that are controversial. But it does make me wonder how (stupid) bills get created. Let's take, for example, the Senator who drafted this bill. I imagine Senator DoGood (name changed to protect his identity and keep his gigantic legal team away from my assets) sits around the breakfast table with his wife chatting, usually about ideas that spend my hard-earned money or increase taxes. In this case, Senator DoGood's parents and grandparents apparently picked roses and vegetables in the San Joaquin Valley so he felt it was his duty to change the state law exempting farm laborers from being paid overtime. I don't want to slam Senator DoGood for doing something he felt was right, but I do want to ask him a question....

Senator DoGood - what's the chance you or your family shop for veggies at the grocery store? Pretty good, I'd say. California law requires grocery stores to post where fruit and vegetables come from, and as a (grumpy) farmer, I notice how much of what we eat comes from somewhere else. Eggplant? $4.49/lb at Safeway this week from Mexico. Hell, even Whole Foods - you know, that place where "eat local" is painted on the front entrance - has mandarin oranges from Australia. Get the idea? So, I'm just wondering if there might be a little hypocrisy going on here. It looks as though there's a damned good chance Senator DoGood regularly eats vegetables grown in countries where farm laborers are paid even less and work conditions are worse. Bad boy, Senator DoGood!

So, it also makes me wonder - if Senator DoGood wants to increase the cost of farming, does that mean he wants the price of U.S. grown vegetables to be so high we can only afford to eat food from China? Or maybe he actually likes the flavor of melon picked unripe, packed in a crate, and shipped on a large boat. Does his logic go something like this.... "Oh well, if we can't afford to grow our own food, at least we can still afford to buy vegetables from Mexico. It would save money on that huge healthcare bill we just passed - I hear the water there is an effective laxative".

All kidding aside, I'm happy to see the bill got vetoed. It was more likely to hurt the people it intended to help. Farmers would have hired more workers rather than pay overtime because no one can afford to raise the price of their products these days. Last time I checked email (which I don't do often because its full of messages offering to enhance my body parts), none of my clients said, "Geez, Jim. Can you charge us more to farm our vineyard this year?"

1 comment:

  1. Exactly, Jim. The most relevant point is that our guys would have lost money, as we would have simply hired another crew to make up those extra 20 hours per man per week. They were more opposed to this than anyone. Net result would have been a PiTA for us to find more folks who could do the work properly, more payroll PiTA and our full-timers losing 33% of their paycheck.

    Luckily, the governator vetoed it. Oh, and check out some of those emails...I think someone from Nigeria was trying to get a hold of you.


Thank you for commenting on my blog.