Archive for the “Agriculture” Category

Washington Post

Under a program to create jobs in rural America, the U.S. Department of Agriculture guaranteed $1.6 million in loans to Aztec Environmental Inc., an asbestos-removal company in Panama City, Fla.

Aztec did create jobs — for hundreds of workers from Guatemala. “Locals didn’t want the work,” said Debbie Livingston, one of the owners.

“You know, some people could argue a job at minimum wage is better than no job at all,” said William Hagy, the USDA’s deputy administrator for business programs. (By Ricky Carioti —

Three years later, in February, Aztec went out of business after a federal investigation into allegations of environmental abuses and the hiring of illegal immigrants. Now, the USDA could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars on the loan.

The Aztec case is one graphic example of the scores of troubled loans that the USDA has backed in a little-known part of the agency’s vast system of farm subsidies. Since the 1970s, the loan program has endured nearly $1.5 billion in losses while backing almost $14 billion in guarantees to private banks, a Washington Post investigation found.

Actual losses are almost surely higher, according to a Post analysis of thousands of USDA loans and grants. USDA officials refuse to disclose losses on loans to individual companies, even after they go out of business, arguing that it “could substantially harm” the companies’ competitive positions.

More than three decades after the loan program was created, USDA officials still don’t know whether it works. Funds have gone to firms that have hired foreign workers instead of Americans. Millions more have gone to failing and bankrupt businesses. Most of the jobs are not new. Many are low-tech and low-wage.

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North Commie Times

FALLBROOK — They lived in a large aluminum shed. It was far too hot in the summer, and far too cold in the winter, but it was home.

They had a TV set, a refrigerator, even running water. No interior walls, really, but it was home.

Until the Rice fire swept through last month, the couple’s shed in the middle of an avocado grove was home.

What little possessions Miguel and Sara Chavez had earned were lost to the flames.

They are not alone. Dozens of poor families in the avocado groves of Fallbrook, and in the far reaches of Pauma Valley, saw their homes melt into the earth — part of the very land they till.

Some are part of a quiet population that makes its home under tenuous circumstances, laboring in the groves, building new homes, or scrubbing bathtubs and kitchen floors in North County.

And for many of them, there will be no insurance check in the mail, Konane Martinez, a researcher with the Cal State San Marcos-based National Latino Research Center, said last week.

Martinez says she knows of at least 25 families on the Rincon Reservation who lost everything in the fires but who do not qualify for federal assistance because they are in the country illegally.

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Some bad cats who oppose true immigration reform areâ??at last!â??retiring from the U.S. Senate.

Other incumbents, many dragged down by their pro-illegal alien stances, face a steep uphill climb in their 2008 re-election efforts.

U.S. Senators are, taken as a whole, old verging on ancient. Several of them are ill or have recently recovered from serious medical conditions.

Even if they were young and healthy, they have served their country poorly and consistently opposed their constituentsâ?? will.

Can you think of better news than the nation ridding itself of these pompous elitists?

As the old saying goes, â??Donâ??t let the door hit you on your way out!â?

Officially gone are:

Nebraskaâ??s Chuck Hagel
New Mexicoâ??s Pete Domenici
Virginiaâ??s John Warner

Toughing it out, often against long odds, are:
Floridaâ??s Mel Martinez
South Carolinaâ??s Lindsey Graham
Idahoâ??s Larry Craig
Alaskaâ??s Ted Stevens
Maineâ??s Susan Collins
Minnesotaâ??s Norm Coleman
New Jerseyâ??s Frank Lautenberg
Michiganâ??s Carl Levin
South Dakotaâ??s Tim Johnson

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The Monitor

EDINBURG â?? Isidro Aguilera-Zuniga traveled hundreds of miles from Central Mexico on the promise of a good job packing vegetables for $8.75 an hour. Instead, he was saddled with physically demanding work for lower wages.

Rosa Luna grew up on the promise of bountiful employment for hard-working U.S. citizens, but found agricultural companies doing anything they could to drive her away.

For years, Mexican migrant laborers like Aguilera-Zuniga and U.S. agricultural workers such as Luna have sparred for jobs, competed for wages and attacked each other from opposing sides of the labor market.

For now, though, the two have found something to agree upon.

They are fed up with employers playing them off each other and reaping financial rewards.

Aguilera-Zuniga, Luna and 18 other farm workers from Weslaco and Eagle Pass filed suit last week against a group of farming and shipping companies who they say manipulated federal visa programs to illegally import hundreds of foreign workers and deny jobs to willing American laborers.

They claim that companies owned by and associated with Edinburg farming firm Nowell Borders, L.P. actively discouraged applications from U.S. citizens for work at several farming, packing and shipping sites, while recruiting Mexican laborers with empty promises of high pay and generous amenities.

The suit also names U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, whose department they accuse of enabling similar practices with an ever-relaxing set of visa requirements.

â??These companies purposefully manipulated events so that they could hire cheap foreign labor,â? said Jonathan Wedemeyer, of the Del Rio-based Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, which is handling the lawsuit for the laborers.

â??They violated the rights of U.S. workers so that they could take advantage of the foreign workers.â?

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