Georgia Governor Nathan Deal received the results of a farm labor survey earlier this week. The survey was prompted by fears of an agricultural labor shortfall which could result from a new immigration bill passed last month. The bill targets illegal immigrants, allowing law enforcement to check the immigration status of individuals without identification as well as penalizing use of fraudulent identity documents with felony charges.
Farmers were worried that enforcement of this bill would not only put many farmers at risk of serious penalties, but could also jeopardize one of Georgia’s most valuable industries. While the bill has not yet gone into effect (it will on July 1), many farmers have already reported a drop in available labor, a drop they blame on the tough immigration bill. Some farms report operating at about 30% efficiency, and some estimate that the state could lose up to $300 million in agricultural revenue.
While the results of the survey have not yet been released, Georgia officials are claiming that it is too early to fully evaluate the cost of the immigration bill. Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler stated that one growing season is too small a time period to properly weight the impact of the bill and that by next year farmers may have gotten used to hiring legal employees, causing the crisis to fade. Governor Deal’s office has announced that it will release the results of the survey sometime next week.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer