6/8 – 41NBC.com WMGT(VIDEO) – Farmers Fear New Immigration Law

Farmers Fear New Immigration Law.  (<- VIDEO)

Wednesday, June 08 2011 18:10 Brittany Gonzalez

Middle Georgia Farmers blame the tough new immigration laws for scaring away seasonal workers from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Farmers say many of Georgia’s money making crops like onions and peaches aren’t getting picked, and it’s costing them millions of dollars.

According to Executive Director of Georgia’s Fruits and Vegetables Association, Charles Hall, around 40% of Georgia’s migrant workforce has disappeared.

He says workers are scared of being deported.

“We’re getting this feed back from our crews and workers in Florida that don’t want to come into Georgia. They’ve heard rumors of road blocks and people being stopped for a traffic violation, and basically being deported,” says Hall.

State Representative and farm owner, Robert Dickey, says farmers are in desperate need of workers.

“If we can’t have the labor to harvest our vegetables and fruit crops they’ll just have to be grown in an other state,” says Dickey.

The workforce shortage is already impacting the state’s billion dollar agriculture business.

“If the same level of shortage of workers continues we’re estimating 25-30% of the farm gate value being left in the field, which equates to in dollars and cents to about $250 million lost in the industry,” says Hall.

The figure would be per year. Lawmakers say it’s all about revamping a failed system. “We need to make sure that those workers are validated. That they follow legal procedures and certainly that it can be done in a timely manner,” says Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black.

Dickey adds, “It’s real unfortunate Georgia had to go forward and try and says ‘enough is enough’, but it really needs to be a federal issue.”

The Georgia Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Association is currently working with the Department of Labor to get unemployed Georgians to work in the fields.

This Friday, Gary Black, will present a report to Governor Nathan Deal on the impact of the worker shortage.

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