Monday, May 21, 2012

The Law Of Unintended Consequences: Georgia's Immigration Law Backfires

Benjamin Powell

To forgo a repeat of last year, when labor shortages triggered an estimated $140 million in agricultural losses, as crops rotted in the fields, officials in Georgia are now dispatching prisoners to the state’s farms to help harvest fruit and vegetables.

The labor shortages, which also have affected the hotel and restaurant industries, are a consequence of Georgia’s immigration enforcement law, HB 87, which was passed last year.  As State Rep. Matt Ramsey, one of the bill’s authors, said at the time, “Our goal is … to eliminate incentives for illegal
aliens to cross into our state.”

Now he and others are learning: Be careful what you wish for, because you may get more than you bargained for.

Georgia’s law, similar to those in Alabama, Arizona and a few other states, gives police the authority to demand immigration documentation from suspects when they detain them for other possible violations. The law also makes it more difficult for businesses to hire workers and creates harsher punishments  for those who employ or harbor illegal immigrants.

The Pew Hispanic Center estimated that some 425,000 illegal immigrants lived in Georgia when the legislation was passed – seventh highest in the nation.  Those numbers are now down, as hoped for, but the state’s economy is paying a heavy price.

The dirty secret that everybody knew was that most of the state’s agricultural workers were immigrants, many of them illegal. Some lived in the state; others migrated with the harvest from southern Florida up to New York and back. Some of the former have moved away, while many of the latter are bypassing Georgia.  Without them, according to a University of Georgia study,  farmers were about 40 percent short of the number of workers they needed to harvest last year’s crop.

Despite high unemployment in the state, most Georgians don’t want such back-breaking jobs, nor do they have the necessary skills. According to Dick Minor, president of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Grower’s Association, immigrants “are pretty much professional harvesters” with many specializing in particular crops.

Workers are paid by volume, with skilled workers typically earning $15 to $20 an hour.  Unskilled workers earn much less, which is why most locals don’t want the jobs.

Georgia’s experience is consistent with economic research on immigration.  Although many Americans believe immigrants “steal” our jobs and push down our wages, economists find little evidence of that.

Since 1950 the U.S. labor force has roughly doubled in size, but there has been no long-run increase in unemployment. Most economic studies also find little evidence that increased immigration depresses the wages of U.S. workers.  At worst, it might push down the wages of high school dropouts, but even there the effect is small.

Simple supply and demand analysis would seem to indicate if you increase the supply of labor, wages will decline. But immigrants don’t simply increase the supply of labor. They supply skills that most Americans don’t have. As such, they don’t replace American workers so much as free them up to do other, typically more-skilled, things. This symbiotic relationship benefits immigrants and native-born alike.

Georgia’s immigration law has had precisely the effect the economic studies could have predicted. Farmers are having a hard time finding workers with the right skills to harvest their crops.  As a result, Minor says, “A lot of the smaller growers have elected not to plant as many crops or to plant any crops.”  These reductions cascade through the state economy and everybody loses.

Georgia’s immigration law wasn’t motivated solely by economic concerns, of course.  Many Georgians also had concerns about the high cost of providing public services to illegal residents: schooling, medical care, law enforcement and other publicly funded services.

But there are better ways to handle such problems than by chasing away needed workers.

Georgia’s immigration law is a blunt instrument that is doing unnecessary harm to immigrants and native Georgians alike, making everyone poorer. Both Georgia, and any other state that’s considering a similar law, should reconsider.

Original Link:

Pest News: May 18th

The latest edition of NC Pest News is now available.  You can find it and all other archived editions here.

In this edition vegetable and fruit growers may find these articles of interest:

  1. Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs
  2. Thrips in Cucurbits
  3. Squash Bugs
  4. Soil Insect Management in Sweetpotato

Friday, May 11, 2012

Military Veterans: The Next Generation of Organic Farmers

Check out this post from the USDA blogMilitary Veterans: The Next Generation of Organic Farmers

Very cool!  Love the name of one veterams hot sauce.

Cucurbit Downy Mildew and Powdery Mildew Early

There have been unusually early reports of both downy mildew (Pseudoperonspora cubensis) and powdery mildew (Podosphaera xanthii and Erysiphe cichoracearum) on cucurbits in the southeast this season.

Growers are encouraged to be on the lookout for these diseases and to call their local cooperative extension office if they need identification help, management recommendations and to report disease.

Southeast Farm Press. May 11. 2012: Downy mildew showing up early in cucumbers.

Cucurbit Downy Mildew Found in NC, Rapid Response and Implications for Local Growers.
Frank J. Louws (1), Wendy Britton (1), Peter Ojiambo (1) and Billy Little (2). (1) Department of Plant Pathology, NCSU; (2) Cooperative Extension, Wilson NC.

There was a confirmed report of cucurbit downy mildew (CDM) in a hoop house in Wilson County, NC on May 3, 2012.  The house contained 2 rows of trellised cucumbers and about 20 vines had early symptoms.  The infection was about 5% and with actively sporulating lesions.

Wilson Cooperative Extension, the NCDA, NCSU specialists, and the CDM ipmPIPE team actively worked to contain this outbreak as soon as possible. Discussions with the grower, industry representatives, and state/University employees reached a quick consensus that the best course of action was to destroy all cucumber vines. The vines were cut, roots extracted, all debris swept up and placed in plastic bags. The contained plant material was carried from the greenhouse and buried at the edge of a field that will not be cultivated this season. This was completed and verified as of 2:00 pm Friday May 4, 2012.

CES and industry knowledge about the area suggested field cucumbers were not present in the vicinity and the inoculum from the hoop house presented a zero to low risk to the industry as a whole. The CDM ipmPIPE subsequently changed the status of this outbreak from "confirmed" to "no longer found".  The county in NC will remain on the map but will not be forecasted as an active source. This data is available at

The only other recorded incidence of CDM is in south Florida. Based on recent weather patterns, there is no evidence the inoculum originated from south Florida and there are no field reports of CDM north of south Florida. A thorough examination suggested the grower used optimum best management practices regarding sanitation, removal of all volunteers and other standard practices. Thus, the source of inoculum remains unknown. However, early detection, rapid destruction and historical weather patterns provide high confidence the problem was contained and does not represent a threat to the industry. At this time, we would not recommend implementation of spray programs to manage CDM in cucumber fields in NC. Monitoring of local fields and forecasting spore dispersal from known sources in south Florida will continue and observations will be posted at the CDM ipmPIPE website.

For further information or questions do not hesitate to call Dr. Frank Louws 919-515-6689 or email (use subject line Downy Mildew).  

To view previous posts on cucurbit downy mildew click here

Dr. Tony Keinath, Clemson University Extension Plant Pathologist, sent out a Timely Talk Update about the presence of powdery mildew on watermelons already this season.  To learn more go to Early Outbreak of Powdery Mildew on Watermelon in South Carolina.

To learn more about cucurbit powdery mildew click here.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Case of the Contaminated, Reusable Grocery Bag

by Mary Rothschild
Food Safety News
May 10, 2012
Original link:

How Oregon epidemiologists solved a norovirus mystery

Oregon state senior epidemiologist William Keene is a fan of Berton Roueché, whose books, like Eleven Blue Men, revealed the whodunnit work of epidemiology.

Now Keene, of the Oregon Public Health Division, and fellow sleuth Kimberly Repp, of Oregon Health and Sciences University, have cracked a case and told a real-life detective tale worthy of Roueché.

Writing in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, available here online, Keene and Repp explain how in October, 2010, a group of Oregon soccer players, 13 and 14 years old, and some adult chaperones, came down with norovirus during a tournament in Washington state.

One of the girls apparently was infected prior to the trip, and began vomiting and suffering bouts of diarrhea late Saturday in the chaperone's hotel bathroom. The girl, who had no contact with her teammates after she became ill, was driven home in the morning.

But a reusable grocery bag filled with snacks -- packaged cookies, chips and grapes -- had been in the bathroom. The rest of the group ate that food during a Sunday lunch, and other members of the team were ill by Tuesday after they had returned to Oregon.

In investigating the outbreak, Keene and Repp found no connections to any other norovirus illnesses at the team's hotel, the tournament, or the restaurants where they had eaten. It wasn't until they learned about the bag in the bathroom that a "coherent story" emerged, Keene and Repp wrote.

Two weeks later, matching viruses were found on the sides of the bag.

Although the first sick girl said she did not touch the grocery bag, Keene and Repp theorize that the viruses had aerosolized in the bathroom and settled on the sack and the food items inside.

"What this report does is it helps raise awareness of the complex and indirect way that norovirus can spread," said Aron Hall, DVM, MSPH, with the Division of Viral Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in an accompanying editorial. And in what could be a blurb for a Roueché-style book, Hall adds that the study authors provide "a fascinating example of how a unique exposure and transmission scenario can result in a norovirus outbreak."

The investigation shows how this tenacious virus "finds a way to move from host to host, even when those hosts have no direct contact with one another," Hall added.

Keene and Repp observe that "incidentally, this also illustrates one of the less obvious hazards of reusable grocery bags."

While they recommend not storing food in bathrooms, the study authors say "it is more important to emphasize that areas where aerosol exposures may have occurred should be thoroughly disinfected; this includes not only exposed surfaces, but also objects in the environment" that could become
contaminated and spread infection.

In addition to thorough hand-washing, disinfecting affected areas with bleach- based solutions and dedicating bathrooms for use only by those who are sick are some practices that could limited outbreaks caused by such indirect contact, they suggest.

Noroviruses -- "perhaps the perfect human pathogens,"  according to Hall -- are the leading cause of gastroenteritis in the U.S. They are responsible for more than 21 illnesses, 70,000 hospitalizations and 800 deaths annually in this country alone. People can get norovirus illness throughout the year, but cases generally peak between December and February.