Skip to comments.Farmers tie labor shortage to state's new immigration law, ask for help (Georgia)
Posted on 05/26/2011 11:00:56 PM PDT by Colonel Kangaroo
Migrant farmworkers are bypassing Georgia because of the states tough new immigration enforcement law, creating a severe labor shortage among fruit and vegetable growers here and potentially putting hundreds of millions of dollars in crops in jeopardy, agricultural industry leaders said this week.
Meanwhile, the states Republican labor and agricultural commissioners are discussing issuing a joint statement in the coming days about what they intend to do about the labor shortage, a Labor Department spokesman confirmed Thursday.
Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, said he has been in close contact with Labor Commissioner Mark Butler and Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black about the shortage, calling it the most severe he has seen. Hall said it's possible state officials could hold job fairs to steer some of Georgias unemployed workers to these farm jobs, which pay $12.50 an hour on average. The states unemployment rate is now at 9.9 percent.
Farmers, however, say they often have little luck recruiting Georgia residents to work in their fields because it is temporary, hot and physically demanding. To recruit more workers, some farmers are offering signing bonuses, Hall said.
The law doesn't take effect until July 1 but is already making migrant Hispanic farmworkers skittish, said Dick Minor, a partner with Minor Brothers Farm in Leslie in southwest Georgia who says he is missing about 50 of his workers now, threatening as much as a third of his crops.
Some farmers who work in Georgias $1.1 billion fruit and vegetable industry are now reporting they have only two-thirds or half the workers they need now and for the weeks of harvesting to come, Hall said. Farmers said the full extent of the shortages wont be known until the coming weeks as they harvest their remaining crops, including watermelons and sweet corn. Hall estimated such shortages could put as much as $300 million in crops at risk this year.
John McKissick, who teaches and researches agricultural economics for the University of Georgia, said the farmers assertions about the labor shortage are plausible, but he could not independently confirm them.
I have certainly heard reports of shortages, he said. There are certainly a lot of dollars on the line with timely fruit and vegetable harvests.
This month, Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 87 into law. Among other things, the law punishes people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants here. It also authorizes police to investigate the immigration status of suspects they believe have committed state or federal crimes and who cannot produce identification, such as a drivers license, or provide other information that could help police identify them.
Georgias agricultural industry -- the largest in the state -- vigorously opposed HB 87 in the Legislature, arguing it could scare away migrant workers and damage the states economy.
Minor, who is also president of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, said the Mexican workers he normally depends on to harvest his cucumbers and squash are staying away from Georgia over concerns they will be harassed.
People are just saying: I am not going to Georgia. The law is terrible. We are going to get in trouble there. Lets just go on, Minor said. They have got options. And what they are saying is Georgia is not the place to go.
Minor said his farm is struggling with a shortage of workers even after boosting pay to attract more of them. He added his farm works with the state Labor Department to ensure his hires are eligible to work in the United States.
Manuel De La Rosa, who recruits workers for Minors farm, confirmed many migrant workers are skipping Georgia for other states, including Florida. He said these workers became afraid after they heard Hispanic television news programs comparing Georgias new law to a stringent one Arizona enacted last year.
Some of the people who were coming over here to [pick] cucumbers said: No. They are going to catch us. They are going to put us in jail, said De La Rosa, a U.S. citizen. Some of them were going to try another state where they have not passed this law yet.
The author of Georgias HB 87 -- Republican Rep. Matt Ramsey of Peachtree City -- repeated Thursday that the law is not set to take effect until July 1.
And there is nothing in House Bill 87 that anybody that is in our country legally has to worry about, he said.
With 13 million folks out of work, I would be quite surprised if these farmers have no interested workers, but paying South American wages, as they likely have been used to, might not cut it anymore. Offer minimum wage and they will probably have hundreds of applicants daily.
Memo to GA farmers, get over it. So sorry your uber cheap illegal labor is finito, just pay a decent wage to get American citizens to work, end of story.
Hell, I am more than willing to pay another dime for a head of lettuce or a couple of peaches to get the illegals out of the US.
The lack of workers is for one reason only: lack of paying a fair wage! It is the same excuse American won't work BS!
Truth is Americans will not work for poor wages, sometimes as low as $3 per hour. For those who do not know Georgia state min wage is $2.35, if your business has no operations outside the state that is.
Thanks for the info. Makes total sense.
Next up, Government subsidies to pay wages to hire workers.
Or am I just too cynical ?
When I was in the service I had a friend who was an American with deep Mexican roots. He told me how he and his family would pick crops to make extra money. Kids these days will not show up if they might get a blister or if the job doesn't offer leisure brakes and a wage above minimum. I remember when you had to be in the "in" crowd to get a job at McDonalds.
They should take everyone getting unemployment who are physically able, including truant students, and put them to work in the fields.
They don’t have to make a career out of it, but a little hard work will do wonders for them and put a few bucks in their pockets, thus alleving a drain on federal and state unemployment funds for a while.
Prisoners are also allowed to work and get paid for it.
My dad is in late 70’s and farmed his entire life. Up until about twenty years ago...you could always hire some local guys for a couple of days (hauling hay or manual labor)...cash on the spot for eight hours of work. Then, it started to get more difficult. Most farmers today have the various apparatus gear to attach to their tractor and load round-bales of hay, and unload pallets from delivery vehicles. The idea of working eight hours and picking up $75 in cash is practically gone now.
Same old BS about Americans not wanting to work. The fact is the farmers don’t want to pay the wages Americans need to live on.
Some Illegals will work 8 hours for 75 cash. When I was young I would have jumped at it.
Stop the unemployment checks and watch the job applications.
Horse crap, there are 11 or 14 different federal programs for farm labor.
What a bunch of small minded folks in the Ag business! If they can’t piggyback off illegal labor and the corrupt politicians in combination with both corporate and labor welfare & overextended unemployment $$s, they just whine like spoiled children. Where is the innovation and ingenuity??? Illegal Labor is very much like slavery of both the taxpayers and the illegal migrant and the opportunity costs are enormous!
I’ve always said that a business model that relies on illegals is not a model at all.
lots of crops are already subsidized.
I couldn’t even find snow shovels for kids this past winter; a co-worker cynically noted that they probably don’t make them anymore.
Americans will do any kind of work; they’re entitiled to negotiate wages like anyone else without illegal aliens tilting the playing field against them.
“The idea of working eight hours and picking up $75 in cash is practically gone now.”
Here in NJ you couldn’t even live under a bridge with that income; we have a lot of farms (the “Garden State”), but very high costs. Today you could spend $75 filling your tank with gas (and we have some of the cheaper gas in the country). Imagine working one out of every five days for gasoline...it’s like something out of “Mad Max”.
“Ive always said that a business model that relies on illegals is not a model at all.”
You’re right; we’re also seeing the folly of a business model that relies on Red Chinese slaves for manufacturing as well.
We actually agree about something. Let their crops rot. If I have to pay $.10 more per bunch of grapes picked by Americans so be it.