Earlier this week, Georgia farm leaders, including the state’s agricultural commissioner, testified in front of the U.S. Senate’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security. In particular, the subcommittee was interested in investigating Georgia’s tough immigration laws and their impact on the state’s agricultural sector.
Earlier this summer, Georgia passed a series of tough immigration laws that cracked down on the hiring of illegal immigrants. In particular, the law required all employers to use E-Verify, an electronic residency verifier that matches potential employees with information on federal databases.
In the wake of these laws, Georgia has seen a dramatic dip in available farm labor. Many farms have reported being unable to adequately harvest their crops, with some farmers reporting crops rotting in the field. Overall the state has suffered tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue as a result of the labor shortage.
Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black acknowledged these losses in his Senate testimony. The state’s informal survey of farms revealed a deficit of about 11,000 farm labor jobs. Even with high state unemployment levels, farm labor is difficult to find.
The situation in Georgia, Black argued, demonstrates the need for a more comprehensive federal guest worker program. Black joins a growing list of American politicians who are calling for major revisions to the guest worker program to allow more migrant workers the ability to legally reside and work in the United States in order to meet agricultural labor needs.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer