Arnoldo Torres: Latino Leaders Must Do Better!

Op-Ed To California Ag Today

Latinos Need a Bigger Voice

By Arnold Torres

In this last round of elections, Democrats ignored the ugly and nationalistic demagoguery of immigrants from Central America that the 45th President pursued relentlessly before Election Day. They allowed the President to continue building a false narrative around immigration. In spite of many Republicans supporting some of the most offensive and verbal racial profiling by a sitting President, our Democratic response was, “vote for me, I am not Republican.”

This President was not only focused on mid-term elections but laying the foundation for his 2020 re-election. He spared no lie to whip up his base.

We heard no substance from Democrats except outrage and sharp criticism of Republicans. Liberal groups like the Center for American Progress and the Third Way noted that running on immigration would not be helpful in securing votes in states and Congressional districts won by the President in 2016. Democrats seemed paralyzed with political fear that they could not capitalize on the anger and growing rejection of Trumpism if they addressed the immigration issue.latinos

Democrats aggressively postured when Republicans followed their script of scapegoating and demagoguing immigrants. They hid behind their words of outrage, old proposals about legalizing Dreamers and no border wall and “abolishing” ICE. They offered no new vision for re-calibrating the policies and discussions that were needed to effectively and honestly deal with the pressures of desperate mass movements of people.

Democrats allowed this President to continue reinforcing a false, ignorant, and racist nationalism about Latino immigrants. The so-called “caravan of invaders” is being “pushed” from sending countries for the same reasons that pushed the ships that sailed with many European refugees/migrants that arrived on U.S. shores in the 1800s and early 1900s.

Latino “leaders” in the national immigration struggle and Latino elected officials in Congress have contributed mightily to the behavior of both parties. It really makes more sense if these Latino “leaders” would stop demanding specific action that has not come about even under President Obama. We must offer viable and balanced policies. The mass movement of people is originating in this hemisphere, and so it MUST fall to us to develop solutions, not ideology.

Due to the inaction of both parties, our community must develop the political agenda for immigration reform that will benefit our nation. Our vision must be specific and comprehensive. The narrative must be honest, factual, balanced and practical and we must begin working with various members of the California Congressional delegation from agricultural producing districts, such as ours. The Trump narrative does nothing more than to pollute the disposition of the U.S. public to push for effective and balanced immigration reform.

There is public support for reasonable reform; the Trump narrative has created a caustic image of immigrants that has become the default position of his base, which is infecting others. The time to act is now. We must realistically address the labor shortages in the agricultural and service industries in California and their dependency on unauthorized labor. We have to frame the issue in economic terms since humanitarian concerns clearly have not been enough.

Our policy outline must offer a constructive and practical new vision. It must include smart enforcement at ports of entry, increased resources for the Coast Guard, increased resources for detection of opioid trafficking from China and India via the internet, and increased resources for local law enforcement in cities located along drug corridors in the U.S. only for enforcement activities related to drug interdiction. Our immigration reform package must include enforcement of existing immigration laws. The GOP narrative is that Democrats are for open borders. Our new agenda must address the issue that drugs from Mexico significantly enter through ports of entry and via the internet from countries outside the hemisphere.

Our agenda must utilize evaluation analyses and propose no private sector detention centers—a vigorous oversight—and accountability mechanism outside of the Department of Homeland Security of these centers and ICE, Border Patrol agents, and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.

Enforcement must be balanced with permanent legal status for all “Dreamers” who meet the original criteria, temporary legal status for the parents of “Dreamers” who have a history of employment, especially in states that had labor shortages in agriculture, construction, and service sectors. We have to include a pilot temporary worker program with Mexico in U.S. states that have documented labor shortages in the above industries to begin to test new ideas. All federal and state labor laws would apply to these workers along with an increase in funding to monitor their treatment, working and living conditions, and employer compliance.

A critical component that we must explore is the creation of working groups between the U.S. and essential sending countries such as Mexico and those in Central America to discuss how to create a stable economic and security environment in their countries and specific regions that are the source of population movements to the U.S. We must not repeat the mistakes our economic and political policies have committed in these countries that are the foundation of the “push” factors, while not losing sight of the “pull” factors that exist within the U.S. serving as magnets for undocumented workers.

Lastly, we must evaluate and provide for a phased-in mechanism of these policy initiatives and include a legalization process, for the undocumented persons currently in the U.S., in the last phase of this process.

We know that Congressman Panetta and his colleagues from the Central Valley have acknowledged the ugly narrative but have taken no decisive action to date. It is important to note that two of his colleagues lost re-election. Was their loss due in part to the failure to move concretely on immigration, especially in the agricultural sector? It is essential that there be transparency around what Mr. Panetta and the Democrat majority in the House of Representatives will do to begin resolving the growing complexities around immigration. Let’s begin our discussion with a town hall meeting to take place in Salinas that allows an open dialogue concerning our proposal and what our new Congress intends to do.

Arnoldo S. Torres is a journalist, consultant, partner in the Sacramento, California based public policy consulting firm Torres & Torres, and the executive director for the California Hispanic Health Care Association.

WG Center for Innovation and Tech Celebrates Three Years

WG Center Brings Technology to Ag

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor

The Western Growers Association’s WG Center for Innovation and Technology in Salinas is turning three years old. Dennis Donahue, mayor of Salinas from 2006 to 2012 and currently the consulting director at the center, spoke to California Ag Today recently about the anniversary.

This center houses more than 50 ag-tech startup companies and is a hub for new developments in ag-tech with services ranging from infield robotics to renewable energy.

“The reality is you have to be making progress on all these things all the time,” Donahue said.fsma food safety flags in the field mean stop harvest here

The agriculture industry as a whole is facing many problems, including water supply, labor supply, water quality, and crop protection. And that’s why it’s so crucial for these startups to keep coming up with these new innovative solutions.

“Labor is a challenge because it’s getting tougher,” Donahue said. “The cost issues are—the supply issues are—intensifying, so that puts a lot of pressure on the automation piece and proof of concept, particularly in the field.”

“How do you get something crop off the ground, out of an orchard or clipped from a vineyard? That’s going to occupy a lot of time, cost efficiency, and technology. Those things are at best with some focus at three- to five-year play, and our problems may come a little sooner,” Donahue explained.

“California agriculture and the folks we deal with in the Western Growers network are bound and determined to address these problems. We often get a real dose of realism. ‘Look, here are the issues. Here are some of the things that haven’t been working well, and we need to work better, and we need to work faster.’ But, there’s no quittin’ the dog. You know, I think the industry is fully engaged, understands the challenges, and we’ve got a pretty good group of people determined to meet them on both the ag and technology side.”

California Safe Soil Honored

California Safe Soil Honored By Forbes Reinventing America

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Associate Editor, California Ag Today

At the recent invitation-only Forbes Ag Tech Summit “Reinventing America: The AgTech Summit” in Salinas, California Safe Soil (CSS) was awarded the Thrive Accelerator Sustainability Award. The Thrive Accelerator program is a highly selective mentorship and investment program for technology-enabled startups in precision agriculture.

Mark Bauer, California Safe Soil
Mark Bauer, California Safe Soil

Mark Bauer, director of business development for CSS said, “Forbes just started this process over a year ago when they interviewed over 100 companies throughout the world. About three months ago they notified us we were among the top ten finalists, and today we found out we won the Sustainability Award! So we are extremely pleased and quite honored to receive that award, ” said Bauer.

California Safe Soil, based in West Sacramento, is a fresh food recycler that increases a farm’s productivity at a low cost, while helping to improve the environment. The company converts food that supermarkets cannot sell or donate into its Harvest to Harvest (H2H) fertilizer which promotes sustainable agriculture by returning nutrients to the soil and increasing plant vigor and crop yield.

“We think it is really important to find sustainable solutions in agriculture today,” Bauer explained. “We have partnered with Save Mart Supermarkets because Save Mart recognized the value of our process. We take all of the organic food waste that Save Mart can’t sell or donate, interrupt that trip to the landfill, and we put it through a three-hour enzymatic-digestion process that takes all the available food energy and forms it into small particles that growers apply to the roots of their crops through their existing drip lines.”

Bauer noted, “We are seeing terrific response in a number of crops, especially with strawberries, raspberries and processing tomatoes. We are growing thousands of acres of almond trees right now and seeing great results. We’ve been working in the areas of leafy greens as well growing broccoli, cabbage and lettuce crops,” he said.

California Safe Soil (CSS)
California Safe Soil (CSS)

“The H2H material moves with the irrigation water through the drip or micro-sprinklers and supercharges the soil microbes,” Bauer explained. “After it goes through our process, the H2H material is composed amino acids, fatty acids and simple sugars–not what plants eat, but what soil biology needs. H2H is the food for the microbiology of the soil; it makes the micronutrients and macronutrients in the soil more available to the plant,” he said.

CSS’s unique full-cycle process assists supermarket customers in recycling their organics, improving store hygiene, and reducing costs. In addition, H2H is a safe, low-cost, high-volume and high-quality liquid fertilizer that helps agricultural customers save money, increase crop yield, and reduce nitrate runoff. These benefits deliver improved quality in air, water, and soil environments, while employing safe, efficient, and effective solutions.