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.
Isn’t this the exact same argument made by the agri-crop growers when slavery was made illegal?
And just how does Georgia avoid the FEDERAL minimum wage act?
You mean with all those thousands of welfare recipients in GA, there are no able bodied workers available to harvest crops? The Bible says, “If any would not work, neither should he eat.” Food stamps should not be issued to loafers.
“Offer minimum wage and they will probably have hundreds of applicants daily.”
Dream on. American High Schoolers are WAAYYYY too sophisticated to do ‘manual labor’ as they see it. Why bother, when you can mooch off your parents and play X-box in your air conditioned house, while taking decades to decide where you want to go in life?
As for adults, I suspect that blacks may have a tough time, as it may remind them of the slavery in their earlier years (i.e., when Republicans were president). For whites...they might do it, but only when the unemployment checks start to run out. No one in their right mind would trade an unemployment check for real work, at the same pay.
I’m not defending the Illegals one bit, I’m just saying that our society has to get serious about encouraging people to work for a living, instead of giving them so many ‘options’.
“Some Illegals will work 8 hours for 75 cash. When I was young I would have jumped at it.”
Yea, I don’t think that people have ANY CLUE how just well paid these illegals are. I saw it when my house was being built. They don’t risk their lives and spend thousands to come here, just to earn Mexican wages.
I’ve lived in the city all my life so i’m no farmer and i’m not going to say i know what conditions are. I am however no stranger to physical work. Its hot and humid in Ga so pick real early in the morning and again when the sun starts to go down. Whats the big deal? Any problem can be overcome.
You are exactly right! Americans are NOT going to work for minimum wage as long as they are getting an unemployment check that is more.
Cheap illegal labor killed it.
Cheap illegal labor means that there's not much of a market for vegetable-harvesting machinery. If we didn't have illegal aliens picking lettuce, we would have robots doing it, thus promoting our robotics industry.
Federal min wage only applies to business which have locations in more than one state.
The other side of the coin - good point in first comment; how cheap is it, really, when it’s illegal?
There’s a lot of able bodied college students looking for summer work. $12.50 an hour is not a bad wage.
Maybe the farmers will have to pay people a decent wage now. Theyve been getting away with cheap labor for too long. Im willing to pay an extra nickel for a peach if it gets rid of the illegals. If I was a teenager, Id be glad to work in the fields for $12.50 an hour instead of a fast food place for minimum wage. If I was out of work Id pick vegetables for $12.50 an hour.
Enough with the bellyachin-it win win win all the way around for legal citizens.
I wouldve jumped at it when I was young too
although back then rent was $250, a house cost about $40,000 and a good used car was about $300
Most people are not going to put in 40 hours of work if payment at the end of the week is a tictac.
Don't know about Georgia but in Michigan, the illegal migrants get a place to live, food stamps, free medical care, free day care all paid by you and me, plus their wages...
Offer that to legal citizens and the farmers will be over run with potential employees...
The meth-crazed, tattooed young white inhabitants of rural areas, and that apparently seems to include practically all who were not smart enough to leave for, or attend school, or join the service, IOW, a majority; are no longer fit for day, or any other kind of labor. A reasonably healthy 70-year-old can work'em into the ground in 45 minutes.
"Aha!" you say. We will send buses into the "urban "ghetto" and offer this sweet deal to young unemployed blacks!
Sorry, Pepsi. They are the same as the low-end rural whites, except that they have more cash and smoke crack instead of using meth, it being more lucrative and easier to refine than meth. They are also better at basketball.
So, if you need farm help, can you say, ¿"Buenos Días, mis amigos del sur. Bienvenidos a mi hacienda?" They'll do the job, take your cash, and unfortunately, they'll also take every cent of welfare cash your county has, while flooding your schools, hospitals, housing, and jails.
Sorry, Pepsi, the big picture ain't any prettier than the snapshot. OBTW, Eisenhower died and this ain't really the America you remember.
It’s a shame, and now what illegals have done to America’s unskilled workers Asians are doing to white-collar workers (though legally). I work with banks, and the number of very obvious Asian names replacing the “American” names I used to deal with is incredible - and they’re here, not in Asia.
That’s exactly why southern Europe has the siesta; the mid-day sun is too hot. The illegal aliens are stealing these jobs from LEGAL Mexican-Americans if temperature is the issue.
No way, do I believe they're paying $12.50 an hour. Now is when we should start pushing to force unemployed workers, like those on Welfare, into these jobs.
Perhaps you didn't catch the sentence in the article that stated the farmers are offering, on average, $12.50 per hour. More than minimum wage, no?
We have a farm and I can attest to the fact that you can't get most locals to work, even offering several dollars more than minimum wage. I will pay hard workers $10-12 an hour, provide transportation if needed, and feed them lunch. There are few takers. Why would they work in the heat and humidity when taxpayers will pay them to sit on the porch at home?
Thanks for the detail on wages there. There is not a labor shortage. Just a shotage of people willing to work for third world wages in GA
There are certain exemptions from the federal wage laws, such as companies doing less than $500k annually, so long as their business does not cross state lines.
It's hot and humid in the whole of the South, nobody is going to make a living farming 4 hours a day, which is about all that it MIGHT be comfortable.
Just remember, the wages the chinese worker gets is all take home pay, about $490 a month and have more money saved than most Americans. Daily living expenses do not include many that are considered normal in the US like insurance. Payroll tax is about 64% and provides a housing allowance and other benefits to cover monthly living. Still, the wages are low but it is only the labor intensive manufacturing that sees that advantage. The reality is that businesses do not locate in China to save labor costs. Many were chased out of the US over a hostile business climate. One line item of non salary related G&A expence in the U.S covers a lot of G&A expenses at a factory in China. Anyone reading this have experince complying with government regulatory compliance paperwork?
As a business owner I keep myself highly informed and enlightened of the Federal labor laws and I have not found any reference to your statement in all of the rules and regulations I have read.
Please provide the federal CFR reference for your statement. If you can find it and cite it, my hat’s off to you. If not, your statement could possibly lead to many small employers reading your post to unknowingly violate Federal minimum wage requirements.
In ALL CASES Federal employment laws supersede state laws.
The particular exemption that I posted (less than 500k, no business across state lines) came from Wiki. It is my hope that nobody is relying on forum posts to guide their hiring and employment practices.
Thank you for pointing out my possible error. There are certainly exemptions to federal minimum wage, but at this time I can't assert that my original post is one of them.