Valdosta Daily Times

Top News

January 24, 2013

Georgia cutting funding for farming visa workers

ATLANTA — After passing a law to crack down on illegal immigration, Georgia may eliminate a program meant to help farmers navigate the complicated process of getting visas for foreign laborers.

Republican Gov. Nathan Deal’s budget plan calls for cutting $150,000 for two liaison positions at the Department of Agriculture. Those employees have served as go-betweens, assisting farmers as they attempted to seek visas for foreign workers through state and federal labor officials.

The pilot program was among the few concessions that Georgia’s farmers won after the Republican-controlled state government passed a stringent 2011 law targeting illegal immigrants, including some foreigners used by farmers to harvest labor-intensive crops such as fruits and vegetables.

The law authorizes police to check the immigration status of suspects who lack proper identification and to detain illegal immigrants. Using false information or documentation when applying for a job became a felony offense. By mid-July, every employer — including farmers — with more than 10 employees must use a federal database called E-Verify to make sure new hires are eligible to work in the United States.

Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black’s office proposed the cuts as it trimmed $1 million from its budget, saying the results did not meet desired outcomes. Legislators, who must pass the budget, started their review of agency spending plans this week.

“The solution to this is at the federal level and having a competent easy-to-use guest worker program so people can come and go,” Black said. “... When we were prioritizing resources, we simply had to say we’re moving on.”

Black said his two workers, including one who has already left for a new job, educated farmers about the federal guest worker program and made inquiries when applications from growers stalled in the federal system. But the state government does not run the federal guest worker program.

Farmers said foreign workers scared of the law were leaving Georgia, creating a labor shortage in the fields. Estimating the extent of labor shortages has been difficult. Black’s office said 20 percent of growers who responded to a survey reported hiring fewer workers in 2011 than the average during the previous five years. The growers cited multiple factors including a poor economy, difficulties with worker retention and a lack of available workers.

The Georgia Farm Bureau, the state’s largest lobbying group for growers, does not intend to fight the cuts.

Growers who need many temporary laborers often have their own employees who manage visa issues or they hire contractors to do it, said Jon Huffmaster, legislative director for the Georgia Farm Bureau. He said he was uncertain how many farmers used the state-run assistance to navigate the federal visa program.

“It’s an enormous job to work through that ... program and the state is quite limited in what they can do,” he said.

“We still have a problem with getting labor and that continues to be a problem,” he said. “And I don’t know how we can have a state solution to this. We need a federal solution.”

Farmers around the country have long claimed the federal guest worker program is difficult to use and doesn’t provide workers when they need them. Republican leaders in Georgia have offered farmers few alternatives. Aside from Black’s liaison program, the corrections system has encouraged probationers to apply for farming jobs, a limited effort with mixed results.

———

Follow Ray Henry on Twitter: http://twitter.com/rhenryAP.

 

For more on this story and other local news, subscribe to The Valdosta Daily Times e-Edition, or our print edition

1
Text Only
Top News
  • Palestinian rivals to try again for unity deal

    Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah agreed Wednesday to form a unity government and hold new elections — a potentially historic step toward mending the rift that has split their people between two sets of rulers for seven years.

    April 24, 2014

  • Obama administration weighs clemency for inmates jailed for 10 years

    The Obama administration is encouraging many nonviolent federal prisoners to apply for early release — and expecting thousands to take up the offer.

    April 24, 2014

  • Earns Facebook_Stew.jpg Facebook 1Q results soar; CFO to step down

    Facebook’s earnings nearly tripled and revenue grew sharply in the first quarter, surpassing Wall Street’s expectations thanks to an 82 percent increase in advertising revenue.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Georgia Gun Bill_Stew.jpg Gun carry rights expanded in Ga. under new law

    Criticized by one group as the “guns everywhere” bill, Georgia took a big step Wednesday toward expanding where licensed carriers can take their weapons, with the governor signing a law that allows them in bars without restriction and in some churches, schools and government buildings under certain circumstances.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Clemson Spring Game F_Stew.jpg Clemson’s Swinney won’t change after complaint

    Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Wednesday he wouldn’t change procedures after the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s letter of complaint expressing concerns about the football program’s connection to the coach’s Christian religion.

    April 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Today in History

    In 1800, Congress approved a bill establishing the Library of Congress.

    April 24, 2014

  • Michigan affirmative ban is OK, Supreme Court says

    A state’s voters are free to outlaw the use of race as a factor in college admissions, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a blow to affirmative action that also laid bare tensions among the justices about a continuing need for programs that address racial inequality in America.

    April 23, 2014

  • ‘Piles and piles’ of bodies in South Sudan slaughter

    Gunmen who targeted both children and the elderly left “piles and piles” of bodies — many of those in a mosque — in a provincial capital in South Sudan, the U.N.’s top humanitarian official in the country said Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014

  • Obama_Stew.jpg Obama views mudslide scene

    Swooping over a terrain of great sadness and death, President Barack Obama took an aerial tour Tuesday of the place where more than three dozen people perished in a mudslide last month, then mourned privately with those who lost loved ones in the destruction.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wall Street_Stew.jpg Earnings and corporate deals lift U.S. stocks

    Corporate deals and some solid earnings reports propelled the stock market to its sixth straight gain Tuesday.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Given the amount of rain recently, what's your favorite “rain” song?

Singing in the Rain
Purple Rain
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
November Rain
Rainy Night in Georgia
Other
     View Results