Organic Panic

Border closing chokes farms


Organic farmer Dick Peixoto has already ripped out 30 acres of vegetables this year, and another 100 acres are on the verge of being overrun by weeds. According to the Associated Press, his losses so far total about $200,000.

The cause: immigration policy. Recent crackdowns at the border have left America's organic farmers with a desperate shortage of labor, just in time for the harvest. Conventional farmers have the option to shift some of the burden to more aggressive pesticides and herbicides to keep threats to their crops at bay, and huge harvesting machines can replace pickers for many crops. But organic farming requires more hand tending and tilling. Weeds must be removed by human beings while they are still manageable, and harvest timetables are more tightly bound to the demands of ripening fruits and vegetables.

Organic farmers use up to 20 percent more manual labor than conventional farmers. About half of America's 1.8 million farm workers are illegal, and in California, where most organic crops are grown, grower associations say the percentage is even higher.