Farmer Says Worker Shortage Killing Crops


LAKE CITY, Ga.,None - At one south Georgia farm, a 40-acre field of cucumbers is rotting.

"They're just scared to come here," said Jason Tyrone, owner of Tycor Farms in Lake Park, Ga., about the migrant workers who would have picked those vegetables.

He says Georgia's new immigration law, known as HB 87, has kept migrant workers, many of whom are in the country illegally, from coming to the state and doing the seasonal jobs they've done for decades.

"A lot of the migrant workers that normally come through here when they leave Florida did not come to the state of Georgia because they were scared," Tyrone said.

He says he saw a 40 percent drop in workers this harvest, and had to cut his losses and let a field of cucumbers go.

He estimates his loss at $40,000 and says it's a problem for most Georgia farmers.

Tyrone says he understands why Georgia lawmakers want an immigration law on the books. Supporters say illegal immigrants are a burden on the state's public services.

The new law is scheduled to take effect July 1, though a federal judge is currently considering an appeal to delay it.

Last week, a survey presented to Gov. Nathan Deal showed 11,000 farm jobs are currently unfilled in Georgia. The governor has suggested using probationers to do those jobs as a partial solution.

Tyrone also has an opinion about a possible solution.

He believes a federal guest worker program, known as H2A, should be modified and expanded in order to bring migrant workers into the state legally.

He says he's used the H2A visa program in the past, but that it's become "unusable."

"If you put in an order for so many, you only get half of what you need, it's just gotten really complicated, and ... expensive," he said.

He says he pays workers $8 an hour for the seasonal work.

The spring harvest is now mostly over.

Farmers are now looking ahead to the fall harvest and wondering what the labor situation will look like.

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