Georgia cutting funding for farming visa workers

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 23, 2013 at 4:18 pm •  Published: January 23, 2013
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Farmers said foreign workers scared of the law were leaving Georgia, creating a labor shortage in the fields. Estimating the extent of labor shortages has been difficult. Black's office said 20 percent of growers who responded to a survey reported hiring fewer workers in 2011 than the average during the previous five years. The growers cited multiple factors including a poor economy, difficulties with worker retention and a lack of available workers.

The Georgia Farm Bureau, the state's largest lobbying group for growers, does not intend to fight the cuts.

Growers who need many temporary laborers often have their own employees who manage visa issues or they hire contractors to do it, said Jon Huffmaster, legislative director for the Georgia Farm Bureau. He said he was uncertain how many farmers used the state-run assistance to navigate the federal visa program.

"It's an enormous job to work through that ... program and the state is quite limited in what they can do," he said.

"We still have a problem with getting labor and that continues to be a problem," he said. "And I don't know how we can have a state solution to this. We need a federal solution."

Farmers around the country have long claimed the federal guest worker program is difficult to use and doesn't provide workers when they need them. Republican leaders in Georgia have offered farmers few alternatives. Aside from Black's liaison program, the corrections system has encouraged probationers to apply for farming jobs, a limited effort with mixed results.

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Follow Ray Henry on Twitter: http://twitter.com/rhenryAP.



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