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    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Alabama Immigration Crackdown Prompts Farmers to Scale Back Production

    Alabama Immigration Crackdown Prompts Farmers to Scale Back Production

    Published May 13, 2012
    Fox News Latino

    ONEONTA, Ala. – Facing the possibility of labor shortages due to Alabama's crackdown on illegal immigration, some of the state's farmers are planting less.

    Keith Dickie said he and other growers in the heart of Alabama's tomato country didn't have any choice but to reduce acreage amid fears there won't be enough workers to pick the delicate fruit.

    Some farmers lacked enough hands to harvest crops because immigrants fled the state after Gov. Robert Bentley signed the immigration law last fall, and some told The Associated Press they fear the same thing could happen this year.

    "There's too much uncertainty," said Dickie, who farms with his brother on a ridge called Straight Mountain, about 40 miles northeast of Birmingham.

    On nearby Chandler Mountain, another prime farming area, Jimmy Miller said he cut back on produce because of possible labor shortages and instead planted more cotton and peanuts, which can both be harvested by big machines called combines that require minimal labor.

    It's unclear how many farmers are changing their planting patterns this year because of the law and whether consumers might see food shortages on the produce aisle at supermarkets. Some growers say they aren't making any changes from years past, and neither the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries nor the Alabama Farmers Federation has compiled statistics yet for the year.

    But Mac Higginbotham, an expert with the federation, said this growing season is important for the state's farmers, about 1,100 of whom grow labor-intensive produce.

    "I think this year will really show how much of a labor shortage is actually out there and it will reflect in the produce availability (and) prices eventually," he said.

    State agriculture officials said the law has created chronic labor shortages since it was passed last year by the Republican-controlled Legislature, where sponsors said they wanted to drive illegal immigrants from the state by making it difficult for them to live in Alabama.

    Aside from requiring all employers to register with a federal citizenship-verification system called E-Verify, the law barred residents from conducting basic business transactions if they lacked citizenship papers and required schools to check the citizenship status of new students.

    Federal courts have blocked parts of the law in response to lawsuits by the Obama administration and others, prompting Bentley and GOP leaders to support what they say are tweaks to the law. The Legislature has blocked efforts to repeal the law, with Republican backers saying they want Alabama to still have the nation's toughest law on illegal immigration once the legislative session ends in a few weeks.

    Georgia has a similar law on the books, and farmers there have had similar concerns about finding a work force to pick crops like Vidalia onions. Some farmers there have also said they were scaling back their acreage, fearing they wouldn't find the workers to pick the crops.

    While some immigrants who left the state last fall in fear of the law have since returned, farmers said they still don't know whether there will be enough workers to harvest crops. A major squash producer in north Alabama is cutting back production and moving some crops to Tennessee because of uncertainty over the law, said John Aplin, a fourth-generation farmer who serves on the state board that oversees farmer markets statewide.

    Aplin, who grows tomatoes and about 200 other varieties of produce on 200 acres near the Florida line, said he planted his regular crops and is hoping he can get them out of the fields when his first large tomato harvest begins later this month. Like other farmers, Aplin said he has had little luck finding Alabama natives who could or would perform the grueling field work that Hispanic immigrants have done for years.

    "They'll work a morning and come up at lunchtime and say, 'I'm done,'" said Aplin.

    Dickie, whose K&D Farms raises tomatoes on about 40 acres of rolling farmland, is eliminating one entire field from production this year in hope of having enough workers to harvest the rest. Sitting on a tractor during a break, he said he hopes the cutback is large enough to compensate for a second year of labor shortages.

    "If it's not I guess we'll sell out and find something else to do," he said.

    Alabama Immigration Crackdown Prompts Farmers to Scale Back Production | Fox News Latino
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    Senior Member ReggieMay's Avatar
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    Too lazy to use one of the myriad of work programs already in existence?
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    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    The farmers claim that it is too hard to do the paperwork and that the three agencies agencies they have to go through to get the H2A VISA workers , DOL, DHS and State, turn the process into a bureaucratic paperwork nightmare. But then they claim that all of the US workers they get are too lazy to work. This is the story put out for all of the MSM outlets to copy.

    The same story appears in every major paper and touts the same "Americans are too LAZY to work" propaganda line to justify that illegal aliens, who are so much better workers than US citizens and are willing to work like slaves for almost nothing, are desperately needed in order for the farmers to be able to function.

    The farmers have become addicted to cheap slave labor because they have been hiring illegals for years and have gotten accustomed to the bigger profits. The more illegals they have the more fields they can plant.

    According to articles printed in the Birmingham News, the farmers in Alabama were paying illegals $1.00 a box to pick tomatoes last year and were crying that US citizens weren't "producing" for them at $2.00 a box. OOPS! Their costs went up 100% and they didn't like it.

    If they admitted to using illegals for years, where are the Revenue Department's of the States they operate in and the IRS? They have admitted that they hired illegals, did they pay taxes or cash? If they pay cash then they didn't pay taxes on their illegal employees. No Social Security tax, but illegals use Medicaid. No state tax, but the illegals are popping out kids and getting the welfare and food stamps and those LAZY US citizens are paying for their education.

    When these farmers go public and admit they have been using illegal labor they should be audited pay the past due freight for the illegals they have enticed to come here. I guess the illegals don't mind earning less because so many are subsidized from the public coffers and they take home everything they make in cash.

    This sort of constant slandering of the work ethic of US citizens is in my opinion, offensive, subversive and a propaganda ploy. They can follow the law or pick their own tomatoes. JMO

    Posted on Thursday, 05.10.12

    Seasonal farm-worker visa program frustrates growers

    By SEAN COCKERHAM

    McClatchy Newspapers

    WASHINGTON -- As the summer growing season approaches, farmers across the county are experiencing widespread frustration over the federal H-2A visa program for seasonal agriculture workers.
    In Idaho, farmers such as Jim Little of Emmett say they need immigrant workers from Latin America but that the government is making it too hard for them to follow the rules and employ workers legally instead of hiring border jumpers.

    "It seems like they take great joy in piling on minutia and things we have to do," said Little, a grain and hay farmer whose family has used foreign labor.

    A bipartisan group of six U.S. senators, from Idaho, Florida, Ohio, Colorado and Wyoming, recently wrote the Department of Labor to express concerns with the system "and its serious implication on producers and our nation's food supply."

    Frustration over the visa program helped drive Little's daughter, Rochelle Oxarango, and her husband mostly out of the Idaho sheep ranching business.

    "We needed four new workers from Peru. I started the paperwork in July and our workers didn't arrive until February," Oxarango said in an interview. "It's really hard to depend on a program that takes that long to get workers here. We had to sell most of our sheep last year and this was one of the driving factors, it was just getting too hard to manage the labor situation."

    It's a growing problem, according to Michaelene Rowe of the Snake River Farmers Association, an Idaho-based group that helps farmers with visa issues. Getting a temporary H-2A visa for a foreign farm worker to work in the United States is a confusing and painful process for an employer who is trying to follow the rules and only hire legal workers, Rowe said.

    "This is counterproductive to the national discussion and political rhetoric related to the need to employ only legally documented workers," she said.

    Employers say that to use the program they have to deal with complicated paperwork and go through multiple federal agencies: the Department of Labor, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State. The recent letter to the Labor Department from the six senators - Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Michael Enzi, R-Wyo.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; Bill Nelson, D-Fla.; and Jim Risch, R-Idaho - cited "numerous cases in which unnecessary administrative delays resulted in not having enough labor to perform needed work."

    "Users routinely bring to our attention cases where applications are delayed or denied because of minor discrepancies related to language or officers applying an unreasonable degree of scrutiny that results in costly appeals to taxpayers," the senators complained. They are asking for the three federal agencies who administer the program to hold regional meetings with farmers around the country to talk about solutions to the problem.

    Assistant Labor Secretary Jane Oates said in a written statement that her department has been working with farmers to process applications more efficiently. That includes a revamped website, an employer handbook and an ombudsman program to deal with issues, she said
    She said that the department considers 85 percent of its final decisions on the visas to be issued in a timely manner and that it certifies the vast majority of applications.

    The Labor Department reports that it certified 68,088 positions through the program last year. "We know that employers with legitimate needs are successfully using the H-2A program," Oates said.

    It's not just farmers who have concerns with the H-2A program. The United Farm Workers of America says the foreign workers are easy to abuse.


    "The concern is that H-2A workers in agriculture are the most vulnerable, exploitable workers out there, in large part because their ability to remain legally in the United States is entirely dependent on the goodwill of their employer," said Erik Nicholson, national vice president of the union, which is based in California.


    "And there has been case after case where, when workers articulate complaints, be it a lack of hand-washing facilities, toilet paper, underpayment of wages, substandard housing, that rather than responsibly addressing those concerns, the employer retaliates by discharging the worker," Nicholson said.



    The Department of Labor emphasized that growers can obtain the legal foreign labor only after they've first recruited U.S. workers and given them a fair shot at the job.


    But Idaho growers said that's part of the problem, with farmers required to hire and train Americans even if they have a Mexican worker ready who's skilled, experienced and trusted.


    Rowe, of the Snake River Farmers Association, said most H-2A users employ some Americans. But she said the required additional U.S. worker recruitment process has turned out to be a "miserable failure that frustrates most program participants."


    "This often comes from their own experiences when local workers fail to show up, work a few days and quit, or perform work in an unsatisfactory manner," she said.


    Idaho farmer Danny Ferguson has four H-2A workers at his barley, wheat, cattle and specialty hay farm. He said he needs seasonal work and there's not a surplus of skilled Americans willing to do what it takes. Too often the U.S. workers "are lazy, don't want to be there, don't want to put in the time and don't do anything," he said.


    "The problem with the program is that as long as we have an H-2A employee we basically have an opening on the farm for a U.S. worker," Ferguson said. "I have to advertise across the nation for U.S. workers. And sometimes we'll get some people who will come, they want to come out, they want to go to work. But they don't actually want to work."


    Read more here: Seasonal farm-worker visa program frustrates growers - National Business - MiamiHerald.com
    Last edited by Newmexican; 05-14-2012 at 09:04 AM.
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