Florida farms agree to pay tomato pickers more

MIAMI — Two Florida farms have decided to participate in a deal to increase the wages of the state’s tomato pickers in an agreement with a farmworker advocacy group and upscale Whole Foods Market, the grocery chain announced last week.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Whole Foods said the farms will pay pickers 1 cent more per pound of tomatoes sold to the Austin, Texas, based company. Whole Foods will foot the bill.

Florida provides most of the nation’s domestic winter tomato crop.

Florida workers earn about 47 cents per 32-pound bucket. That can mean an average of about $12 an hour during the picking season for the hardest workers, usually immigrants who receive no health insurance nor overtime.


If all Florida tomatoes purchasers joined the penny deal, the farmworkers could nearly double their earnings.

Governor blocks Army expansion on ranchland

DENVER — The Army’s plan to expand a southeast Colorado training site is facing another obstacle now that Gov. Bill Ritter has signed a measure barring the use of state land for the project that is opposed by ranchers.

Ritter approved legislation last week that prevents the state from selling or leasing land to the Army to expand the Pinon Canyon Maneuver site. About 20 percent of the land the Army wants for the site is state-owned.

The Army first announced its plans more than three years ago, saying it needed to expand the 370-square-mile site to about 525 square miles to accommodate new weapons, tactics and soldiers. But neighboring ranchers united to fight the effort, picking up support from state lawmakers and members of Congress.

They also filed a federal lawsuit accusing the Army of not carefully considering the environmental impact of the expansion on the arid, short-grass prairie landscape.

Report: Food aid costs more than it should

WASHINGTON — The government’s food aid programs are spending more and delivering less to hungry people than they could, according to a Government Accountability Office report released last week.


The reason: U.S. agencies buy commodities here and ship them on high-cost U.S.-registered ships. Countries that buy food aid locally in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, the GAO found, deliver it for about a third less.

In addition, U.S. aid shipments reached their destinations in an average of 147 days, compared with 31 to 41 days for food bought locally.

While the U.S. remains the world’s largest aid donor in cash terms, its $2 billion in food aid buys 54 percent less food than it did in 2002, largely due to higher commodity and transportation costs.

Other major donors, including the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada, have begun to donate cash directly to the World Food Program, which then buys food locally.

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