ALMA, Ga. (WSAV) – Local farmers say they are paying for tighter restrictions at the border.
On Monday in Bacon County, farmers joined Congressman Buddy Carter to hear from federal agencies about issues they’re having with getting more migrant workers. Many shared stories about unexplained delays with legal workers hired to harvest their farms.
Six federal agencies called in for the conference, arranged by Carter, including the State, Homeland Security, and Immigration and Customs departments. Farmers took the opportunity to discuss delays they say are disastrous for short harvest windows.
“It costs a substantial amount of money,” said Mike Brorton, a blueberry farmer. “Last year our workers were held up at the border in Monterey, fortunately, for only five days.”
“If it had been 10 days, it would have probably cost me a quarter of a million dollars,” he added.”
Georgia’s Agriculture Commissioner says his office hears of migrant workers with long, loyal work histories now having trouble at the border.
“We’ll have people who never have a problem, then all of a sudden, after 17 years, they have a problem and nothing’s changed and there’s no explanation for it,” said Gary Black. “Which we found on the phone today, not a lot of explanation.”
Many in the agriculture industry would love to hire at home, like Douglas County cotton ginner Ben Evans. But he says local job-seekers don’t apply.
“Everybody realizes that we have to have access to this labor because the labor in this country is not willing to do the jobs we have,” Evans said.
There were no answers provided to farmers. None of the agencies would commit to providing a checklist for farmers to follow to avoid delays with their workforce in 2020.
“Trying to get one department to move off of ground zero is difficult. When you’re talking about getting four departments together and getting all them to work together, that’s even more difficult,” said Carter.
But the congressman assured farmers that he’s going to take their concerns to Washington to try to make a difference for next year’s harvest.