Georgia Struggling to Replace Migrant Workers

According to a study by the Georgia Department of Agriculture, farmers across the state are having a difficult time replacing lost Hispanic farm workers. The study, released last week, concluded that given the complexity and demanding nature of agricultural jobs, the state would have a hard time replacing the diminished labor force.

The labor shortage is an ongoing result of last summer’s immigration battle. Georgia, along with several other Southern states, recently passed one of the strictest immigration bills in the country. The new laws would empower law enforcement to verify the residency status of individuals detained by police. In addition, it would require employers to utilize the federal E-Verify system, which taps into federal databases to verify residency status.

The new laws have prompted an outcry from immigrant rights groups and civil libertarians. In addition to political blowback, agricultural migrant laborers left the state in droves, hoping to avoid the harsh new laws.

This exodus of farm labor has created serious hardships on Georgia farms. Agricultural officials have estimated that the labor shortages have caused roughly $10 million of losses in the state. Acknowledging the importance of Hispanic workers, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black stated, “Non-resident immigrant laborers, those of legal and illegal status, harvest crops, milk cows, gin cotton and maintain landscapes.”

Black’s report is being used by agricultural officials across the country as evidence of the need for major reforms to the federal guest workers program.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer