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Letter to the Editor: Farmers and migrants

By Susan Rounds Salt Lake City

On Sept. 4, the Salt Lake Tribune printed a story on the problems facing farmers and migrant workers. Migrant workers frequently choose to leave agriculture for better paying jobs in construction and hospitality, thus creating a labor shortage. But struggling farmers can’t afford to pay higher wages or provide benefits to keep these workers.
Since we already have prisoners fighting forest fires, why can’t they also pick fruit?
Advantages to farmers:
1) they would not need to provide healthcare insurance for prisoners since it’s already covered by the taxpayer.
2) there would never be a shortage of workers.
3) they would not need to check legal status.
4) they would not need to go through all the hassles of “guestworker” paperwork.
5) they would pay the state a “reasonable, affordable wage” for the prisoner labor thereby, protecting their farms and our food source.
Advantages to prisons/local jails:
1) if prisoners “worked off” their time, by reducing their sentence one day for every day they worked, it would help to lessen crowded conditions that can result in releasing other, more dangerous prisoners prematurely.
Advantages to the consumer/taxpayer:
1) our fruit and vegetables would remain affordable and plentiful.
2) this program would be far cheaper than the $126 billion U.S. Senate bill “pathway to citizenship” / “guestworker program” or any other “guestworker” program.

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