Posted: 4:57 pm EDT April 18, 2011Updated: 6:58 pm EDT April 18, 2011
ATLANTA — The state Department of Agriculture will study the impact of a recently approved immigration reform bill on the Georgia’s multibillion dollar agricultural business.
New Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black told Channel 2’s Richard Elliot his study will be complete and truthful.
“I’m going to do the study they gave us to do,” said Black of the legislature-ordered report. “We’ll do it professionally, thoroughly and then get the facts out to the citizens of Georgia.”
After much debate, lawmakers passed sweeping immigration reform last week. Gov. Nathan Deal announced Friday he would sign it into law.
The new law requires employers, including farmers, to use the government’s E-Verify system to make sure all their workers are in the country legally.
Some in the agriculture industry balked at the plan, saying farmers use a lot of migrant workers and checking their immigration status would be costly and time consuming, and could scare away even legal workers.
Farmers are concerned it could lead to higher labor costs which, in turn, would translate into higher prices at the supermarket. They also worry the law could lead to a boycott of Georgia agriculture products.
Black said the study will try to determine if there is any impact on Georgia growers.
“Producers want a legally documented workforce,” Black told Elliot.
“And that’s absolutely essential to harvesting crops each year and something they’re deeply concerned about.”
Black also said he would continue to market Georgia products aggressively around the U.S. and the world.
At the State Farmers’ Market in Forest Park, produce vendor Kevin Mathis told Elliot part of the worry is that no one is sure what the actual impact of immigration reform will be.
“Hopefully, it will have no impact whatsoever,” Mathis said.
“But if it does, I hope it doesn’t hurt us too bad.”
Another vendor told Elliot he’s more concerned over spiraling gas prices than immigration reform right now.
Black said the study should be complete by Jan. 1, 2012.