Donald Trump supposedly won the Presidency on the strength of his appeal to rural America. But as we have often noted on this blog, rural America depends on the immigrant labor force that Trump wants to deport.
KELO Radio brings us the latest reminder of Big Ag’s desire to keep illegal immigrants on the job at our farms and feedlots:
The American Farm Bureau says close to half of all farm workers in the United States are undocumented and the agency endorses a plan to give people residency but not citizenship.
Steve Suppan with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy says the Farm Bureau has to walk a fine line with its Republican constituents in not granting citizenship to undocumented farm workers [Jack Taylor, “Deportations Impact on Agriculture,” KELO Radio, 2016.12.20].
Dr. Suppan goes further in his original commentary, noting that NAFTA has driven many Mexican farm workers to immigrate illegally to the U.S.:
As IATP’s Karen Lehman testified to Congress in 1993, the terms of the NAFTA agriculture chapter would drive a very conservatively estimated 600,000 to 700,000 Mexican farmers (and their families) off their land to the United States to look for work. According to a Mexican legislator, as of January 2015, about 550,000 Mexican farmers a year migrate to the United States [Dr. Steve Suppan, “Undocumented Farmworkers and the U.S. Agribusiness Economic Model,” Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy, 2016.12.19].
Any Trumpian replacement of NAFTA is unlikely to fix that problem:
Stemming futures flows of Mexican farmers into the undocumented U.S. agricultural workforce will require renegotiating NAFTA to prevent agricultural export dumping, i.e. exporting at prices below the cost of production, with which the unsubsidized Mexican farmers cannot compete.
Measures to end dumping will not be popular with agribusiness donors to Congressional elections and so are unlikely to be included in a renegotiated NAFTA. The flow of undocumented labor into U.S. agribusiness very likely will keep coming, both from Mexico and via Mexico, from the Central American Free Trade Agreement countries [Suppan, 2016.12.19].
Another driver of immigration is another problem Trump is unlikely to do anything about—climate change!
One important emigration driver is climate change that is helping to degrade soil quality and fertility. Major investments to adapt to climate change by improving soil are absent and a recent report estimates that there will be about 50 million climate change refugees over the next decade.
President-elect Trump told The New York Times that he is “keeping an open mind” about climate change but he nominated a climate change denier to be in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency. If the Trump administration climate policy does not come with U.S. funding for farmers in developing countries to adapt to climate change, the Farm Bureau advocated pool of permanent temporary migrant farmworkers could become much larger much faster [Suppan, 2016.12.19].
Trump voters think they are getting a President who will be tough on illegal immigration, but they have chosen a President and a party whose beholdenness to big business and bad science mean Trump won’t be able to tackle two root causes of illegal immigration.