Prison inmates are working on a Vidalia onion farm in southeast Georgia. It’s part of a state program to fill empty farm jobs. The ‘transitional’ inmates packing onions at the Wayne Durrence Farm in Glennville are getting ready to return to the outside world. A part of their paychecks goes to the state to defray incarceration costs.
The Senate Agriculture committee has approved a resolution urging Congress to allow states to administer their own version of the H-2A federal visa program that allows employers to bring in foreign workers for seasonal agricultural work.
Two bills to overhaul a federal foreign guest worker program are under consideration by the U.S. Congress. Washington is also considering a law mandating the E-Verify employment check system. Following labor shortages during the spring harvest, Georgia’s agriculture industry is keeping a close eye on these bills.
State officials are eying a North Carolina coop program that makes it easier for small farmers to hire foreign guest workers. Many of Georgia's large growers already employ such workers. The program could help farmers who continue to say Georgia’s new immigration law has scared away migrant workers this summer.