While the Farm Bill will ultimately provide support for many producers, especially those who raise oilseed, grains and cotton, it will not do all that much for growers of fruits and vegetables. Nor will it do much to buttress the incomes of those who labor in the fields.
There have been efforts in recent years to raise wages for farm workers, but most have failed. However, an ambitious campaign that leverages consumer sentiment to alter corporate behavior is in full motion. The effort could become a strategic template for future campaigns.
Florida tomato pickers this week completed a cross-country march protesting worker wages. Southern California labor unions, students, and consumers joined the 65 farm workers, part of the Florida-based Coalition of Immokalee Workers. The protestors laid their grievances at the corporate doorstep of Taco Bell Headquarters, a major tomato buyer.
Protester Soundbite: "We, the young people of the United States are here to tell you Taco Bell, that we prefer fair food that respects human rights over fast food that exploits human beings."
The protestors contend the workers are toiling for 1978 wages. They're prodding Taco Bell to pay a penny a pound more for the tomatoes it buys. This says the Coalition would double wages for the workers.
But the complaints of the marchers fell largely on deaf corporate ears. Taco Bell insists the issue is a dispute between the workers and their employer, Six L Packing Company.
The farm workers and their supporters are urging a national boycott of Taco Bell's 7-thousand fast food restaurants to compel the company to pressure Six L to raise farm worker wages.