Alabama farmers are reporting smaller than average plantings across the state, citing fears of labor shortages in the wake of the state’s illegal immigration crackdown.
Last spring and summer, several states across the country passed tough new immigration laws designed to curb the flow of illegal immigrants. Citing a failure of the federal government to adequately protect the border, Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia all passed laws empowering law enforcement to verify the status of detainees, required state employers to use the federal E-Verify system to check the immigration status of potential employees, and made it a crime to harbor illegal immigrants.
In the wake of these laws, local officials have reported severe shortages of farm labor, with both illegal immigrants and legal farm workers leaving the state for fear of harassment. Because of these shortages, farm officials in Georgia and Alabama have reported millions of dollars in lost revenue as crops rotted in fields due to the lack of farmhands.
Several farmers in Alabama, citing last year’s shortages, are planting fewer crops for fear of continued losses. Several tomato farmers in the heart of the state’s tomato country claimed that there was simply too much uncertainty about the availability of labor to plant large crops.
While it’s not entirely clear how many farmers across the state will reduce their planting, farm officials say this year will serve as a test case for the law and its impact on labor. More than 1,000 Alabama farmers grow labor-intensive crops. State officials say the final harvests at these farms will indicate the depth of the labor shortage.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer