In the wake of major crops losses due to Georgia and Alabama’s tough new immigration laws, some Southern farmers are attempting to adjust to the new labor shortages by changing their crop rotations.
Over the last several months, both Georgia and Alabama passed a series of laws designed to reduce the flow of illegal immigration. Both states required employers to use the federal E-Verify system, which matches employment applications to federal records, both states empowered law enforcement to verify the status of individuals detained by police, and Alabama went as far as to require all students to verify their residency status.
Following the passage of these laws, many agricultural laborers left the state, creating major labor shortages on many farms. Farmers in both Georgia and Alabama have reported millions of dollars in lost revenue and many farms have reported crops rotting in the field with no one to pick them.
While many farmers are hoping that new federal regulations may make it easier to attract guest workers, many are also altering their planting patterns to reflect the new lack of labor. In Georgia, for example, labor intensive crops like Vidalia onions, the state’s official vegetable, may see a ten percent drop in production as farmers plant fewer acres, while crops that can be harvested mechanically are expected to see increased production.
In addition, many farmers are simply planting less in general. While this may reduce their total profits, eliminating wasted money on seeds and fertilizer for crops that may rot in fields can help reduce overhead and get farmers through this rough patch.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer