Monday, June 2, 2008

FARM WORKERS CAN'T COME NORTH? FARMS MOVING SOUTH

AP Antonio Martinez no longer pays smugglers thousands of dollars each year to sneak him into the United States to manage farm crews. Now, the work comes to him. Supervising lettuce pickers in central Mexico, Martinez earns just half of the $1,100 a week he made in the U.S. But the job has its advantages, including working without fear of immigration raids.. . . Martinez, now a legal employee of U.S.-owned VegPacker de Mexico, is exactly the kind of worker more American farm companies are seeking. Many have moved their fields to Mexico, where they can find qualified people, often with U.S. experience, who can't be deported.

American companies now farm more than 45,000 acres of land in three Mexican states, employing about 11,000 people, a 2007 survey by the U.S. farm group Western Growers shows.

U.S. direct investment in Mexican agriculture, which includes both American companies moving their operations to Mexico and setting up Mexican partnerships, has swelled sevenfold to 624 million pesos (US$60 million) since 2000, Mexico's Economy Department told The Associated Press.

Major corporations such as Archer Daniels Midland Co. and Bunge have invested across Latin America for decades, particularly in countries like Brazil, where agribusiness is booming.

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