The agricultural industry has heard for years that farming is the most dangerous occupation in the U.S., amid the many hazards involved in planting, nurturing, harvesting, processing, and transporting a crop for delivery to the grocery store and in the end to the consumer’s plate.
This fall, a group of growers and others found them facing an even more unexpected dangerous situation – drug smuggling.
While minding their own business, the large crowd of growers, agribusiness folks, and this Western Farm Press editor attended a field day. Suddenly, the piercing sound of sirens penetrated the ears of the crowd as the deafening sounds quickly interrupted the rural serenity.
We were on a farm – at least 10 miles from the nearest stoplight – where crops and snakes were likely the only ones loving the hot day – suddenly interrupted by the piercing wail of sirens moving closer – and fast.
Until then, the crowd visually soaked up views of farm rows planted in a crop while learning about the latest technology in the commodity pipeline – all aimed to improve the bottom line for growers.
The siren roar filled all ears – getting louder by the millisecond. Suddenly, a pickup truck travelling at a high rate of speed turned on the dirt road about 30 yards away from the field day crowd. The truck smacked the ditch bank.
The truck driver somehow maneuvered the vehicle back on the road with one flat tire as the farm crowd watched with eyes as large as a Guinness world record-breaking steer.
As the car race continued, the truck propelled by three wheels sped past two loaded tractor-pulled trailers of people. My immediate thought - what if the truck, minus a tire, swerved to the right and smashed into the people-packed trailers or the packed tent area?
Suddenly, a convoy of border patrol vehicles stormed toward the truck with sirens wailing. The truck suddenly came to a screeching halt at the road’s end. The driver jumped from the vehicle and scattered like a jackrabbit into the desert despite the likely snakes, scorpions, and other critters in the path.
Border patrol officers removed horses from the trailers. Agents climbed on the equine, galloping into the desert searching for the likely law breakers. Word has it the fleeing suspect(s) was never found.
The event was a near miss in human tragedy. Loved ones and the agricultural industry could have lost some of its most dedicated folks – in an instant.
I learned later that this area is a frequented path for drug smugglers moving narcotics from the U.S.-Mexican border to Phoenix and numerous locations beyond.
While the entire episode likely made ‘hear a pin drop’ fodder at dinnertime, it is yet another prime example of the illegal trafficking through Mexico into the U.S.
The reality is this close brush with death could have happened anywhere in the U.S.; not just at this farm but anywhere in the border states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
The nation’s borders are far from secure and congressional and executive inaction to seal the border puts innocent people in harm’s way.
Agriculture and the U.S. deserve a better and safer nation.