Dept. of Agriculture, H-2A, Labor, Research and Studies

Notes from Rural Georgia: ‘All the Crop was Missed’

From Blogs.AJC.com, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jim Galloway, 15 Jun 2011.

On Monday, we gave you the link to that quick Department of Agriculture study of rural Georgia’s labor problems — shortages in the wake of the state’s new illegal immigration bill.

About 11,000 mostly part-time jobs are going unfilled.

What wasn’t included were the two pages of notes from interviews with willing farmers and agribusiness figures. Those were released this morning. Click here to download the document – but here’s the content:

Randy Scarbor (& Sons):

– They reduced the number of crops they planted this year, but even so, they’re having trouble finding labor.

– They have 2 regular laborers, but they might need 4 or 5.

Connie Sandlin (South Georgia Produce):

– They’ve done H2A in the past; the program has its flaws. 50 people take the job and then 5 show up.

– Thinks that immigrants should have to use e-verify when they apply for benefits, not be a burden on the farmer by being checked when they’re hired.

Wavell and Darline Robinson (Wavell Robinson Farms):

– For both of their crews, only half of the workers have shown up because they’re afraid to be in the state.

– They’ve been in business for 47 years, and this is the first year they’ve had problems finding labor. The first year that crops will go bad in the field.

– They’d done H2A for years, excellent program, but dealing with DOL is a “nightmare”.

– Too much paperwork and too expensive

– Were always checking in on the farm, almost to catch you in a mistake

– They were forced to hire whoever DOL sent, sometimes more than the contract was for. Sometimes they sent pregnant women, thugs, etc., But they were forced to hire them, and they would never stay past lunch.

– If contract was for 60, they’d send 120, and you had to hire whoever they sent.

– No one sent from DOL ever stuck around.

– Don’t know if they’ll be able to get enough workers.

– Now have 85-90, need about 125.

– The ones they do have are also committed to other farmers because of the shortage and are only on their farm temporarily.

Tom Stone (Stone Pecans):

– Have about 6 part-time, need 20 full-time.

– They are going to have serious problems because of the shortage.

Don Wood (Wood Farms):

– “We are definitely behind.”

– Really anticipate having problems in July- will need more help in about 10 days and doesn’t know if he’ll find it.

Tom Doughtrey – grows peppers, cabbage:

– Definite labor shortage.

– Have 50 now, need 50 more.

– Contacted DOL.

Winston Bridges (Quitman Georgia)- Squash and Peppers:

– Workers are all scared.

– Lost over 100 acres of squash, roughly 60% that was planted.

– Lost over 40% of his pepper crop.

– He needs 70 works, only have 30 right now, and fear it is going to go down before July 1, 2011.

– He is worried that since it is so hard finding workers now, he just might not plant a fall crop.

R.E. Hendrix (Metter)- Produce:

– They currently use H2A and have 60 workers through the program.

– It took 3 months and extensive, complicated paperwork, multiple bonds, extremely burdensome.

– Even with all this the work put into the program, the workers arrived 30 days late, resulting in 150 acres of produce dying before it could be picked.

– They had to get Congressman Kingston involved to even finally get the workers.

– They always expect to be sued by legal aid.

– Even though they use the H2A system every year, it does not get easier, or the paper work does not get any less cumbersome.

Fred Paulk (A&C Produce):

– Needed 24 laborers during the first crop, only had 4.

– Lost squash because it has to be picked every other day, but without enough people to pick it all the crop was missed.

– A second crop has been put up. This time has 8 workers but still is short 12.

– Local legal residents refuse to come work even when offered a job.

Source: Blogs.AJC.com, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Notes from rural Georgia: ‘All the crop was missed’” by Jim Galloway, 15 Jun 2011.

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