The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler said Monday his agency is still measuring the extent of the state’s farm labor shortages and added it is too early to call the problem a “crisis.”
The Republican commissioner said his agency has dispatched representatives to meet with farmers in South Georgia and ask them how the Labor Department could help fill any open jobs. Butler said a labor survey the Agriculture Department is sending farmers will also help him gauge the scope of the problem.
Gov. Nathan Deal asked for the survey last month in a letter to Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black(cq). Deal said he wants Black’s department to survey farmers about the impact Georgia’s new immigration enforcement law, House Bill 87, is having on their industry and report findings by Friday. Georgia farmers are complaining the new law is scaring away migrant farmworkers.
Asked about the impact of HB 87, Butler said a combination of factors could be to blame for the labor shortages, including the types of jobs farmers have open and what they pay.
“One season is not enough to pass judgment,” Butler predicted. “Maybe we do have some farmers that are having a hard time hiring right now, but next year they may not because… once they have to get used to hiring legal workers maybe they will be there.”