I spy with my Illinois eye.
Farms (and by extension farmers) hold a special place in our collective Illinois’ hearts. Food is life. We understand and are proud that Illinois is farm country. We do our part to safely and cost effectively feed the world.
But take another look down on the farm. While the scenery is bucolic, not all is as it seems. To understand the problem you need to know that most people who live in the Illinois countryside are not farmers. Let that really sink in for you. The farmers who make a living off the land are the top 1% in the rural income hierarchy. Farm ground is under taxed relative to its value. This under taxation of farmers puts a heavier load on the rest of us just like the elite do in the city.
Some farming is capital intensive and not labor intensive. These farmers grow corn and beans. This is most of the farming you see when driving around Illinois. Rows and rows of corn and soybeans. This takes big expensive machinery and skilled operators to run the equipment. One or two people can plant and harvest thousands of acres.
On the other hand, some farming is labor-intensive farming and those farm industries have a shameful history with regards to forced child labor using illegal immigrants that are trafficked in America.
When the rural 99% look at how labor is exploited at the hands of the 1% in these farm industries – we are outraged. We see the problem up close and personal. It is beyond belief that we have effectively slave child labor camps right in front of our eyes. We have children that are victims of human trafficking smuggling rings and there are big businesses making money off of these victims.
Until our laws and our systems and our society hold everyone who is profiting from human trafficking accountable (I’m looking at you Big Agriculture) then we are not ending human trafficking.
When we verbalize the problem locally, we are told that these industries would collapse without this cheap labor. We know the 1% farmers don’t pay their fair share of the property taxes and they are often the worst neighbors in terms of spillover effects.
The spillover costs are imposed on the rest of us in rural America and the benefits accrue to the 1%.
Examples of the spillover include the smell of livestock production, the disposal or discharge of animal waste, and the higher traffic on the road from industrial farming. When a giant corporate farm opens up in a countryside location the impact on the neighbors can’t be controlled by a local elected county board. Why? Because the corporate farms have lobbyists in Springfield and the State pre-empts local regulation of large commercial farms.
Of course the worst abuse is the abuse of the people who work at the farms. There’s a reason why it’s hard to find American citizens who know their rights who will work these jobs. These are lawless areas inside America. The only cop on the beat is the local sheriff and as you’ll see from the video below, they’re like private security for these Agribusinesses. Who enforces the labor laws, environmental laws, or ethical laws in either the treatment of people or the animals they raise?
Children are being trafficked in America. The worst part is that a US Government agency was responsible for delivering the victims to the hands of the abusers. How can this happen in America? This is the real outrage of our immigration policy.
Watch this Frontline video to see the real story of immigrant children in America. Don’t look away. This is happening right here in America, in the Midwest, and in Illinois too. Watch how the local police work on behalf of the 1% by providing security for the corporate farm even while they are employers who are harboring of illegal immigrants.