Crops and Immigration

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011 - 10:23am

Some farmers say they can't harvest food because of new immigration laws.

Today Congress takes a look at the unintended effects of tough new immigration laws.

In the south, crops are going bad because immigrants aren't showing up for work, and that could have a big impact on what you serve for dinner.

Farmers have been pressuring state lawmakers to make some changes to bring their workers back. Now they're looking to Washington for help.

Georgia's agriculture commissioner will tell Congress today that his state's tough new immigration law has left farmers short 11,000 workers. "We've heard a lot of reports from some people having, they're okay right now, they're okay they're scared," said Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.

Immigrants - legal and illegal - are afraid to show up for work. Afraid they'll be arrested, so crops are going bad. And instead of jobless Americans, some of the new workers are prisoners and ex-cons who farmers say don't work as fast as immigrants. "Everything I could ask them to do they don't stop. They just work all day long," said goat farmer Rod Elkins.

Backers of these laws say the reason workers have stopped coming to work is because farmers don't pay enough. "They're not paying a living wage. If you can't support a family it's unlikely that you will do back-breaking work simply for the enjoyment of it," says Eric Ruark of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.


The effect could be higher food prices or less food at your grocery store. "If ya'll want to get hungry, put us out of business cause that's where you are going, you’re going to be hungry," says tomato farmer Leroy Smith.

While farmers take their case to federal court, agriculture officials will ask Congress for a federal guest worker program to get immigrants back on the job and home-grown food back on America's table.

Today the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear from farmers, Georgia's agriculture commissioner, and the head of a group backing these tough new immigration laws.

Tracie Potts, NBC News.
 

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