For all of the 25 years I lived in Lodi, a major producer in the San Joaquin Valley's breadbasket, I could always count on one thing come springtime. Immigration advocates from the farming industry, the open borders lobbyists and Capitol Hill would begin their annual plea for more foreign-born labor under the threat that without them "crops would rot in the field."
I marveled at this nonsense since, within a three-mile radius of my home, I saw workers tending to cherry orchards, strawberry fields and vineyards. Nothing ever rotted. In fact, some years growers harvested record yields.
California Sen. Dianne Feinstein is a leading proponent of importing more workers. Despite her dubious public record of being 100 percent wrong about a farm labor shortage, few in Congress have worked harder than Feinstein toward the goal of increasing agricultural workers' numbers.
In 2008, Feinstein told the San Francisco Chronicle, "It's an emergency. If you can't get people to prune, to plant, to pick, to pack, you can't run a farm." In her 21-word statement, Feinstein lied five times. As I personally witnessed, there are plenty of workers pruning, planting, picking, packing and running farms. Whatever else may be going on in California agriculture, an "emergency" is not one of them.
Although Feinstein has been embarrassingly incorrect about agricultural conditions, and even though there's no groundswell of enthusiasm for her candidacy, she's poised to run for re-election in 2012.
Californians looking for reasons why their state is in such a mess can start with the fact that voters refuse to get rid of the legislators that put them deeply in debt and straining under a broken welfare system.
Here's a few fast facts about Feinstein that should mitigate against electing her for what would be her fifth term of misrepresenting Californians for the past 26 years (she was first elected in 1992 to fill a 2-year vacancy created when Pete Wilson resigned to become governor). A cautionary note: Feinstein will be 85 by 2018, so finishing out her term isn't a given.
In addition to continuously re-introducing an AgJOBS bill that would serve as an illegal alien magnet, Feinstein opposes E-Verify, the federal program that would confirm that new employees are legally authorized to work in the United States. Feinstein has voted for every proposed increase in non-immigrant worker visas and each Senate amnesty put before her. At the same time, Feinstein has not initiated any action to reduce rewards to illegal immigrants or to end chain migration, a policy that has directly contributed to California's overpopulation.
Most frustrating is that other viable solutions to Feinstein's pet cause — more ag workers — are readily available. First, for example, Japan, when faced with a choice of bringing in seasonal crop workers or opting for mechanization, chose the latter with excellent results. Second, the federal government has a successful existing program that allows for unlimited agricultural workers, the H-2A visa. Third, in 2007, responding to a possible summer worker shortage, California passed S.B. 319 that increased the possible numbers of hours out of school teenagers could work during the peak harvest. Now that's the way to solve a problem: Look for local answers before urging Congress to issue more visas.
Feinstein has failed during her multiple opportunities to serve Americans' common good. With the nation struggling with so many acute problems, a fresh perspective is urgently needed.
Joe Guzzardi, once a Democrat and previously a Republican, is now a registered Independent. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.