A Thought for Thanksgiving Day

Posted by Miryam Ehrlich Williamson

A great article from the Idaho Mountain Express and the Creators Syndicate

Honoring the hands that feed us

By SHAWN DELL JOYCE

Creators Syndicate

Thanksgiving is a holiday built around food. We gather and gorge, sometimes acknowledging the hands of the cook, perhaps thanking the divine, but rarely do we honor the hands that feed us.

Growing the food that feeds our country is one of the most thankless and low-paying jobs a person could have. In 2002, the median net income for a U.S. farmer was $15,848, while hired hands and migrant workers averaged about $10,000 per year. Farming has become so unpopular that the category was removed recently from the census, and federal prison inmates now outnumber farmers.

Migrant pickers often put in long hours, up to 12-hour days, earning about 45 cents for each 32-pound bucket of tomatoes. That amount hasn’t risen in more than 30 years. At that rate, workers have to pick 2.5 tons of tomatoes during an 11-hour workday to earn minimum wage. Most farmworkers don’t get sick days, overtime or health care. Some farmers often don’t fare much better.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. If we stopped putting such an emphasis on “cheap” and instead put an emphasis on “fair,” maybe those hands that grow our food could afford to eat, as well. Raising farm wages would have little effect on supermarket prices. That’s mainly because farmers and farmworkers are paid only about 6 to 9 cents out of every retail dollar spent.

If we raised farm wages by 35 percent and passed that cost to consumers, it would raise the retail price by only a few pennies, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. The total cost to consumers for all fresh produce would add up to less than $34 per year for each family. If we raised wages by 70 percent, the cost would be about $67. Divide that among 52 weekly trips to the supermarket, and you’re looking at spending barely more than $1 per trip to the store. Wouldn’t you spend that much to know that people didn’t suffer to feed you?

Read the rest of this article ….

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