Controversial anti-immigration laws like Georgia’s HB87 and Arizona’s SB1070 have drawn national attention, but there may be more to this type of legislation than meets the eye. The laws may be harming each state’s economy, and a new report out of Georgia provides some insight into yet another possible negative side effect from these tough immigration laws — labor shortages.
The University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development completed a study about the state’s farm labor shortage for the state’s Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association. According to the report, farm labor shortages in the state could lead to a reduction of $391 million in the state’s economy.
Although the report doesn’t specifically state that the anti-immigration law is responsible for the economic losses, the association between the two is not difficult to make. An article on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution website delves into the issue further:
“The report does not cite the reasons for the shortage in laborers in Georgia’s $68.8 billion agricultural industry, the state’s largest. But many farmers complained this year that Georgia’s new immigration enforcement law — House Bill 87 — has scared away the migrant Hispanic workers they depend on, putting their crops at risk.”
Farmers aren’t actively seeking out illegal immigrants to hire; they merely have issues with the extremely cumbersome process of verifying guest workers. Unfortunately, it looks like the projected losses may just be the tip of the proverbial iceberg for Georgia’s agriculture industry.
Today, the Center for American Progress released a report on how Georgia’s HB87 could have far-reaching effects on the state and national economy. The report includes four key findings:
- Although the state is already experiencing a labor shortage, the losses will continue to mount as farmers transfer to mechanically harvested crops. The Center for American Progress predicts that nearly $800 million per year could be lost if all of the handpicked crops were switched over to a mechanized process.
- Smaller farmers will be more severely impacted by the loss of migrant laborers than larger farm owners.
- A loss in the state’s agricultural sector will have negative financial impacts across all industries in the state, which will lead to an increase in Georgia’s unemployment rate.
- Changes in Georgia’s agricultural industry will have negative affects across the country, including higher food prices and possible issues with food safety.
These issues could all be avoided, per the pro-immigration reform camp, if farmers would simply raise the pay rate for their workers. This would negate the need for legal, migrant labor and erase the farm labor shortage but unfortunately this would also cut in to a farmer’s already slim margin.
Learn more by reading the Center for American Progress report, How Georgia’s Anti-immigration Law Could Hurt the State’s (and the Nation’s) Economy (PDF).