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.
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.
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