Wed., December 8, 2010 2:45pm (EST)

Farmers Decry Immigration Crackdown
By Josephine Bennett
Updated: 3 years ago

MACON, Ga.  —  
Migrant farm workers
Migrant farm workers
The Georgia Farm Bureau calls itself the “Voice of Georgia’s Farmers.” Now that voice is saying not so fast to state lawmakers who want to create new ‘Arizona Style’ immigration laws.

On Tuesday the group adopted a policy that opposes any state law that discriminates against farm workers. They say any immigration reform must ensure the agriculture industry has a legal, stable supply of workers. They say tougher laws could change that.

Farmers can hire guest workers under the federal H2-A program but it’s expensive and cumbersome. Charles Hall is with the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. He says under H2-A farmers are required to hire U.S. citizens first, but most leave within a few days.

“It’s field work and it is hard work and so that’s the reality that we’re working under, that we’re with right now.”

Hall says immigrant labor is necessary to pick, pack and process agricultural products and there’s worry tougher laws could scare all immigrants away. Agriculture is the state’s largest single economic sector.