For the past few months, the issue of farm labor has been front and center in Georgia. That’s because last year, the state passed HB 87 – a tough immigration law modeled after Arizona’s HB 1070. As a result, many farmers complained they had issues finding the farm labor they needed after HB 87 passed. It seemed that migrant workers didn’t even bother looking for jobs in the Peach State, and farmers were already having a difficult time filling positions with laborers on guest worker visas because of their cost and paperwork.
The farmers commissioned a study from the University of Georgia’s Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development to determine the extent of damage the shortage had done. The study examined seven staple Georgia crops, Vidalia onions included. The findings were shocking: 18 Vidalia-producing farms lost an estimated $16,312,345 and 835 jobs. In total, the seven crops studied lost almost $75 million and more than 5,200 jobs because of the labor shortage.
The state stepped in, with the suggestion of using probationers to do the work. The plan has helped…This season, one onion farmer has turned to the state again – only this time, current prisoners are being allowed to help with the harvest.