San Joaquin Valley growers tend to be politically conservative. Many were enchanted when Donald Trump came to Fresno last May and announced “there’s no drought,” playing right into their favorite narrative: If the government (abetted by environmentalists) didn’t insist on shutting off the Delta pumps, there would be plenty of water for agriculture.
“A lot of farmers liked that he said that,” Del Bosque said. “Of course we’ve been in a natural drought, but yeah, there’s some regulations that are making it worse, and maybe that’s what he was talking about.”
But even if they liked Trump’s stance on water, his harsh immigration policies — and vows to deport people in the country illegally — could make harvesting the fields impossible.
“I think a lot of them thought he was just blowing smoke,” Del Bosque said. And then, of course, Trump assumed office.
California agriculture simply cannot work without migrant labor. For example, the main towns around Del Bosque’s 2,000 acres — Dos Palos, Firebaugh, and Mendota — have a combined population of about 20,000, children included.
“When I start harvesting my melons,” Del Bosque said, “I need 300 people. And there’s like six other melon guys who need 300 people, and one probably needs 900. So we need around 3,000 people to harvest. Then, the tomato guys need people, the grape guys need people and the garlic guys need people. There are not enough people in these little towns for that seasonal surge in labor needs. That’s why we’re dependent on people who come from somewhere else.”
Mexican laborers, after all, put fresh fruit and vegetables on all of our tables. I wonder if President Trump even knows where his food comes from.