Georgia Considers Using Prisoner Labor on Farms

Following on the heels of a statewide agricultural survey that discovered a shortage of about 11,000 farm laborers, Georgia Governor Nathan Deals is considering an unorthodox means to resupply Georgia’s farm labor population. The solution in question would utilize prisoner labor, largely through the use of probationers, to fill the agricultural gaps.

Agriculture is a major part of the Georgia economy. Annual revenues generated by the agricultural sector average about $69 billion and the state ranks in the top ten for production of roughly 22 agricultural products, ranging from broiler chicken, peanuts, cotton, and peaches, to name a few. The recently passed immigration bill, which takes effect on July 1st, has reportedly frightened off a significant amount of agricultural labor, many of whom are either illegal residents or are afraid of potential profiling once the new law goes into effect. The labor shortages could result in over $300 million of lost revenue.

Deal’s plan would reportedly replace illegal immigrant labor with that of prison probationers. Governor Deals has asked the Department of Corrections to work with the Department of Agriculture to begin strategizing a pilot program in Southern Georgia that could explore the benefits of using inmate labor. While the details, such as timing and pay, have not yet been worked out, Georgia officials are confident that the plan could resolve the labor problems.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer