WASHINGTON - July 8 - Market forces and trade, immigration and labor policies create conditions ripe for exploiting and enslaving farmworkers, according to a new report by Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy.
Corporate consolidation of food buyers now dictates prices paid to growers who, to meet these price demands, often ignore labor laws and slash wages in order to survive.
"Since NAFTA, 1.7 million Mexican farmers have been displaced from their land. Many have risked their lives crossing the border to find work in U.S. farms, only to suffer under slave wages, substandard living conditions and abusive working environments," said Christine Ahn, co-author of the report. "They are thrust into a cycle of abuse as growers, through farm labor contractors, take advantage of their desperate situation, including their fear of deportation."
An increasingly consolidated food industry that wields expanded purchasing power dictates the prices it will pay for crops through prepurchasing agreements. Growers, who fiercely compete with Mexican farmers and each other to meet these price demands, do everything they can to cut their costs.
"Taco Bell's tomatoes come from a single broker who buys them from only five or six growers, which not only rips apart competition but squeezes grower's profits," said Melissa Moore, co-author of the report. "The farmworker bares the brunt in slashed wages and deplorably harsh working conditions, while the savings for the American household amounts to just $50 a year. The only winners are the chief executives; the CEO of agricultural commodities giant Archer Daniels Midland raked in over $2.9 million last year."
Faced with mounting abuse, many farmworker organizations such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and the United Farm Workers are gaining recognition by challenging exploitative practices of agribusiness and corporations. In Florida, the Justice Department, aided by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, convicted several farm contractors for slavery over the past five years.
Read the report here: