Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has indicated his willingness to resume the use of probationer labor on Georgia farms this fall. The need for farm labor is the result of a May immigration bill that sought to severely curtail illegal immigration in Georgia.
Georgia’s immigration legislation sought to mandate the use of E-Verify, an electronic residency verification system, and punished employers who evaded or ignored the law by hiring illegals.
The immigration bill resulted in a sharp decline in farm labor in the state. According to opponents of the bill, migrant laborers, both legal and illegal, left Georgia as a result of the strict legislation, an exodus which created a void of more than 10,000 jobs. These lost jobs are estimated to have cost the state more than $300 million since the law went into effect.
Earlier in the summer, Governor Deal and the state’s Department of Agriculture sought to address the loss of jobs by using probationer labor, claiming that giving jobs to former convicts on probation allowed them to develop valuable skills and while filling needed jobs. Despite these hopes, many probationers left their farm jobs after only a few days, citing backbreaking work and hot weather.
Georgia agricultural officials hope that the program will pick up more in the fall, when the weather changes, than it was last summer.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer