Farmers still facing challenges of Immigration Reform Law 1 year later

By: Hope Jensen Email
By: Hope Jensen Email

News 12 at 11 o’clock / Monday, July 2, 2012

WAYNESBORO, Ga. -- Farmers are still facing a shortage of workers one year after Georgia passed immigration reform. The controversial law requires employers to check the status of workers through E-verify.

Farmers fought the law, saying it would take away the help they desperately need. One year later, they say it still hasn't gotten any better.

David Raley has been farming peanuts and cotton in Burke County for the past 10 years.

“If we don't find adequate labor to get it out in a timely fashion, we could lose the crop,” he said.

That time has become a lot more precious since the immigration reform bill went into effect last year.

“The migrant workers are scared, a lot of them packed up last year and left, and we just can't find labor to do what we need done,” he said.

“It has devastated the smaller town economies because they're not able to get the workforce to get their crops out of the field,” added Lee Webster, president of the Burke County Farm Bureau.

The law requires employers to use E-verify to check the immigration status of their workers.

“I think it was a knee-jerk reaction to a foul economy and unemployment rising, and it has had many unintended consequences,” Webster said.

Many farmers fought the bill until the day it passed and now they're saying "I told you so."

“Time has already shown that our objections were correct,” Webster said. “This was not a solution. I mean, we knew that it was going to end up like this.”

And as for solutions to the problem they're still facing, Webster says, “There has been no real solution. All the fears that we had of the stifling effect it would have on the labor force has come to pass.”

For Raley, that stifling effect has left him scrambling all year long to make sure his farm continues to make a profit.

“You get behind and you need that help and labor,” he said.

One solution they were offered was probation workers who could come in and help them harvest, but they say the problem is the learning curve. The migrant workers are very skilled and can do the tasks much quicker than the probation workers and in farming time, is of the essence.

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