So I get to wondering: Who’s going to milk all those cows on G. Mark Mickelson’s deregulated CAFO dairies? Who’s going to slaughter the cows trucked to Northern Beef Packers/New Angus/DemKota Ranch Beef? Who’s going to harvest our grain and fruits and vegetables?
Immigrants, of course.
And then I get to wondering if immigration might quietly bring Big Ag around to abandon the Republican Party—maybe just on the Presidential ticket, but maybe more broadly, to send a message—and turn South Dakota against Donald Trump in this election.
Consider that Donald Trump would build a wall between us and Mexicans and Muslims, who provide much of the labor force for agriculture and food processing in South Dakota and nationwide. Big Ag’s support for Republicans has borne the fruit of Trumpism, which threatens their industry’s ability to sustain a domestic workforce:
An immigration policy focused on closing the border would shift up to 61 percent of U.S. fruit production to other countries due to domestic labor shortages, sending jobs to Mexico and other nearby competitors, according to a 2014 study commissioned by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the largest U.S. farmer group.
Reforms that would include a guest-worker program and legal status for current migrants would keep those losses in revenue at 2 percent to 3 percent. That’s made the farm lobby a reliable ally in efforts to open immigration.
The agriculture industry is the 10th-biggest donor to political campaigns, ahead of the transportation and defense industries and just behind organized labor, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. Agribusiness gives three-quarters of its donations to Republicans, according to the group [Alan Bjerga, “Crops Rot While Trump-Led Immigration Backlash Idles Farm Lobby,” Bloomberg, 2016.06.07].
Bernie Sanders supported the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill that would have helped farms hire more legal immigrants instead of leaving them trapped in the work visa backlog that Big Ag says threatens this year’s harvest. Hillary Clinton says immigration reform is part of her plan to help agriculture.
So farmers, ranchers, eaters, think about it: you have one party offering a President who will shut down immigration and half or more of the American harvest. You have another party offering a President who will back the reforms necessary to keep making beef and bread and blueberries (oh! wait! machines muscle out migrants and alliteration!) in America.
South Dakota’s Big Ag Republicans may not like it, but if we’re just talking business, their best choice for President is the Democrat.