-Submitted by David Drumm (Nal), Guest Blogger
A little over a month ago, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (left) signed HB 87, an Arizona-like immigration law. The law was designed to drive illegal immigrants out of Georgia, and now state officials are
shocked feigning shock that it worked.
The resulting labor shortage has meant that millions of dollars of unharvested blueberries, onions, and other crops will be left rotting in the fields. Since many farmers live harvest-to-harvest, the loss of one crop could mean the loss of their farm.
Agriculture is Georgia’s number one economic activity, so Deal called for an investigation. The results of a survey show that at least 11,000 workers will needed. More than 6,300 of the jobs pay an average of $8 an hour, have no benefits, and are even not covered by workman’s compensation.
In an effort to downplay the effect the law would have on the farm labor force, Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black claimed that workers can earn $12 to $18 an hour. “Can” being the key word. However, that wage range is not reasonable. Vegetable and melon workers’ wages are near $7.78 an hour, and blueberry workers make about $6.70 an hour. These are, of course, seasonal wages.
Georgia farmers could try to solve their labor problem by offering higher wages, but passing that additional cost on to consumers would put their crops at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis other states that haven’t chased out the cheap labor. The Vidalia onion, Georgia’s official state vegetable, is going to be in scarce supply this year.
What did they think would happen? You don’t have to have a Nobel Prize in economics to have foreseen this crisis. And what is Deal’s contingency plan? He acts shocked.