Farm organizations and immigrant rights groups are threatening a boycott of Georgian agricultural products in the wake of a tough immigration bill that recently passed the Georgia legislature. In an effort to combat illegal immigration, the Georgia House and Senate recently passed a restrictive labor bill that requires all employers with more than 10 employees to verify their citizenship before hiring them. The goal of this bill is to significantly reduce the employment of illegal immigrants in Georgia. Governor Nathan Deal has promised to sign the bill once it reaches his desk.
Farm groups have opposed the bill, claiming that it could cause significant damage to the agricultural sector in both Georgia and elsewhere. Significant portions of the agricultural economy in several states rely on non-citizen labor. Illegal immigrants often make up a significant portion of the local workforce. In addition, guest workers frequently round out the agricultural workforce. Some farm groups fear that harsh immigration laws could lower legal immigration for agricultural work, a potentially major problem given that American citizens have been unwilling to staff agricultural jobs. Some fear that an immigrant crackdown could reduce the agricultural workforce and could lower productivity.
In addition, immigrant rights groups argue that the bill unfairly profiles immigrants and Hispanics, particularly portions of the bill that allow local law enforcement officials to question the citizenship of suspicious individuals. As a result of the bill’s passage, some groups have threatened a boycott of Georgian agricultural products, such as Vidalia onions.
State Agricultural Commissioners Gary Black has promised an aggressive ad campaign designed to thwart a potential boycott, stating, “I think Georgia commodities and their quality and the family farmers that produce them speak for themselves, so we look forward to being very aggressive as we always are in promoting what’s good about Georgia and we believe the consumers of this country and the world will respond in a positive fashion.”
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer