Breaking: Illegal Immigrants Contribute to Farming – Thur Helpin Our Furms!

Yeah, this was a bad business policy. Georgia’s HR 87, enacting strong measures against illegal immigration, has done its job. Less illegals are now picking crops. Victory for everybody! Now, Georgia’s farms – the state’s largest industry – are 11,000 workers short and letting millions of dollars of produce rot unpicked.

Governer Deal’s proposal: hire 2,000 criminals on probation. Aren’t all illegals also criminals? But those 2,000 criminals here legally and that makes them employable.

FYI, only 169 of 11,000 of those farm jobs pay $16/hr; most pay substantially lower.

Further calculations allow me to report that the Governor is still missing 9,000 job vacancies in his proposal.

It goes without saying that this is a Republican-led misadventure.

The results of that investigation have now been released. According to survey of 230 Georgia farmers conducted by Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, farmers expect to need more than 11,000 workers at some point over the rest of the season, a number that probably underestimates the real need, since not every farmer in the state responded to the survey.

In response, Deal proposes that farmers try to hire the 2,000 unemployed criminal probationers estimated to live in southwest Georgia. Somehow, I suspect that would not be a partnership made in heaven for either party.

As an editorial in the Valdosta Daily Times notes, “Maybe this should have been prepared for, with farmers’ input. Maybe the state should have discussed the ramifications with those directly affected. Maybe the immigration issue is not as easy as ’send them home,’ but is a far more complex one in that maybe Georgia needs them, relies on them, and cannot successfully support the state’s No. 1 economic engine without them.”

According to the survey, more than 6,300 of the unclaimed jobs pay an hourly wage of just $7.25 to $8.99, or an average of roughly $8 an hour. Over a 40-hour work week in the South Georgia sun, that’s $320 a week, before taxes, although most workers probably put in considerably longer hours. Another 3,200 jobs pay $9 to $11 an hour. And while our agriculture commissioner has been quoted as saying Georgia farms provide “$12, $13, $14, $16, $18-an-hour jobs,” the survey reported just 169 openings out of more than 11,000 that pay $16 or more.

In addition, few of the jobs include benefits — only 7.7 percent offer health insurance, and barely a third are even covered by workers compensation. And the truth is that even if all 2,000 probationers in the region agreed to work at those rates and stuck it out — a highly unlikely event, to put it mildly — it wouldn’t fix the problem.

Given all that, Deal’s pledge to find “viable and law-abiding solutions” to the problem that he helped create seems naively far-fetched. Again, if such solutions existed, they should have been put in place before the bill ever became law, because this impact was entirely predictable and in fact intended.

It’s hard to envision a way out of this. Georgia farmers could try to solve the manpower shortage by offering higher wages, but that would create an entirely different set of problems. If they raise wages by a third to a half, which is probably what it would take, they would drive up their operating costs and put themselves at a severe price disadvantage against competitors in states without such tough immigration laws. That’s one of the major disadvantages of trying to implement immigration reform state by state, rather than all at once. AJC via Balloon Juice

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