Non-H-2A Ideas to Ease the Pressures at the Southern Border

Part 5 of 6: Redistributing existing public resources to favor the Northern Triangle

By David North and Rodney North on July 30, 2019

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

Read Part 3

Read Part 4

As this series of postings has developed, some new ideas have overshadowed earlier ones, and the content of the last two articles will be a bit different from earlier plans. In this one we discuss already-funded, non-enforcement, public sector initiatives that can ease the migration crisis, and in the next and last one, some new and robust public sector initiatives aimed at the same goal.

The basic notion of redistributing an obscure resource – jobs in the foreign farm worker, or H-2A program – to ease the pressures on our Southern Border was simply to change the geographical distribution of an economic good under the control of Uncle Sam, and use that good (the jobs) to help the economies of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

It subsequently dawned on me that if we could help the Northern Triangle by switching H-2A jobs to Central Americans, for example, one could do the same with many other categories of governmental economic activity, all more significant than the farmworker program.

This is a version of stealing from Peter to pay Paul, except it would be a process of taking a little from the numerous Peters around the world to pay the three Pauls of Central America.

Why not nibble at the massive flows of military aid to Egypt and Israel, to restore those sums to the much smaller programs of that ilk for the Northern Triangle. Why not switch the purchase of scores of millions of dollars' worth of uniforms from wherever they are currently being purchased to these nations? Aren't there other governmental procurement systems that could start buying a larger portion of what is needed from these nations, and a little less from some other areas?

Buying Coffee. Why don't we, more specifically, make sure that when the U.S. government buys coffee – not world-wide as it does now – it buys as much as possible from the Northern Triangle?

To dramatize this idea, why not use the White House Mess as the location of the announcement while serving the best Northern Triangle coffee available to all the reporters?

The White House, then and there, could issue a statement along these lines:

For the next two years we will buy all our government's coffee needs from the ‘Northern Triangle' of Central American countries, specifically Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador; and we will do so in a manner that doubles the ‘farm gate' price for those farmers, which is now only about $1 a pound – a level which is driving farmers, farm workers, and their families to seek work in the U.S.

For this coffee we will guarantee a $2.00 per pound price for the farmers for the next two years. If the market goes over $2 a pound, we in the government, will pay market price. This approach will slightly increase the costs for the U.S. government and that increase will be absorbed by the existing multi-billion dollar budgets of the Defense Department and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. However, the new costs will be similar to what the government experienced just a few years ago, when world coffee markets were stronger.

If need be, we will use the recent Executive Order on the crisis at the border to facilitate the higher prices.

In addition, for the same time frame, we will ask the U.S. coffee industry to come to the aid of our country – and those three countries – by increasing their purchases of Northern Triangle coffee by 10% over current levels (this would be on top of any coffee for the aforementioned government program) and by increasing the minimum value of that coffee to the growers by 25%; this will be a net contribution to these rural coffee growing communities of approximately $394 million for the period above what they are currently receiving for their harvests.

Over the two-year period the government and the industry – assuming the industry agrees – will pump well more than one third of a billion additional dollars into the rural economies of those three countries and would encourage Central Americans who are in or near the coffee trade to stay at home, and not risk their lives on illegal trips to the U.S.

We will devote the needed staff time to make sure that these higher prices are spread equitably among all the coffee farmers in those countries and are not diverted to middlemen.

Prior to making this announcement, White House officials will make sure that the industry knows of this plan, and will seek as much industry cooperation as possible.

The size of these additional payments to the coffee industry were extrapolated from government data on the current level of coffee imports sourced from the three countries, as can be seen herehere, and here.                    

Rodney North, son to David, studied Spanish in Guatemala, and for almost 20 years worked in, and co-owned, a specialty coffee importing company.