I was a staunch opponent of HB 87, which established a number of tough new measures to combat the presence of undocumented workers in Georgia.
Even though most of the law’s provisions weren’t even in effect in 2011, migrant farm workers — many of them undocumented immigrants from Mexico and Central America — stayed away from Georgia by the thousands. Farmers throughout rural Georgia subsequently faced a labor crisis for the demanding and poorly paid work.
A shortage of workers in the field caused $10 million in crop losses for 500 Georgia farmers who responded to a study called for by Georgia’s new immigration law.
The tough laws Georgia passed last year as House Bill 87 likely scared some workers away, the study concluded.
Figures released earlier this year said the total losses on more than 40,000 Georgia farms was $74.9 million 0n seven major crops, and that 11,080 jobs in the fields went begging.
State Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black said one in five farmers surveyed reported they had trouble finding enough workers in 2011, 40 percent said that the federal guest-worker program was so cumbersome, complex and slow that it was not usable, and farmers can expect more worker shortages this year.
There’s mention in the piece of the bill being somehow “tweaked” in this year’s legislative session, but I don’t expect that to happen in any substantive way.
There’s no doubt that the economic damage was far worse than these estimates, especially in Georgia’s struggling rural counties. Fewer workers means fewer sales of all sorts of retail items, less demand for housing, and so forth and so on.