According to some Alabama farmers, the state’s agricultural labor force is remarkably low. Bill Cook, the owner of an Alabama horticultural farm, reports that he is having difficulty filling a skilled landscape manager position on his farm, a problem he’s never had before. According to his unofficial estimates, his applicant pool is about fifteen times lower than it was last year. Other farmers have reported similar difficulties in hiring.
The problem, according to Cook and other farmers, is Alabama’s tough new immigration law. Last month, Alabama passed a new immigration bill that cracked down on employing illegal immigrants. In addition to requiring school districts to determine the citizenship status of students, the bill would require all employers to use E-Verify, an electronic residency verifier that many claim is more effective than current systems. The new law will take effect on September 1.
The problem, according to Cook, is that many immigrants, including legal residents, are leaving the state before that bill takes effect. Many farmers claim that legal immigrants are leaving alongside illegal immigrants in order to preserve familial and cultural ties. This departure has left a massive void in skilled agricultural labor, a void that Cook and other farmers have been having difficulty filling with Alabama residents.
A similar situation occurred in the wake of Georgia’s tough immigration law, with that state losing thousands of agricultural jobs and standing to lose over a billion dollars in lost agricultural revenue.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer