Numerous California counties, cities, and communities are
built upon a strong tradition of agricultural productivity. Through generations
of farmers and entrepreneurs, that tradition has resulted in substantial
economic activity. In 2009, California farmers produced $34.8 billion in gross
cash receipts. In other words, California’s agriculture communities produced
more economic activity than the entire economies of South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming,
North Dakota, or Vermont.
The future of those communities depends upon their ability to remain
competitive and productive. The security of the United States’ food supply
depends upon the success of California farms.
E-Verify has the potential to decimate California’s agricultural communities by
limiting access to the nation’s highly skilled migrant workers. They represent
essential labor that is necessary to harvest the plethora of crops produced
In California, E-Verify is a threat to Agriculture; in Georgia it’s the
reality. That’s because that state recently enacted HB 87.
Since that law was approved, migrant workers have been fleeing the state,
leaving farmers wondering how they were going to harvest their fields in time.
Charles Hall, Executive Director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers
Association was interviewed for a June 26, 2011 Gainesville
Times article about the immediate impacts of HB 87.
"What we began hearing in mid- to late May was many of our migrant
workers, they were not coming to Georgia," said Hall. "Farmers are
short on harvest labor 30 to 50 percent. You don’t have a whole lot of window –
that crop has to come out or it’ll spoil."
That shortage equals about 11,000 vacant harvesting jobs. In an attempt to fill
the void, the state has called upon three agencies to recruit probationers to
work the fields. The program has been met with mixed success.
In one instance, reported by Georgia’s
Alive11, the NBC affiliate in Atlanta, 18 probationers showed up to work at
a farm one Wednesday morning. By lunch, eight had already quit. The supervisor
overseeing the men, Benito Mendez, said that the "crew is real slow. If I had
to depend on these people, I would lose my crops."
The workers, who were paid the same wages as the migrant workers but worked
half as fast.
The issue extends further than simply harvesting crops efficiently. If crops
are left to rot in the fields, farmers will be forced to increase their crop
prices in order to break even. But with increasing prices comes decreasing
California’s agricultural competitiveness under a strictly enforced E-Verify
system could be further hampered by the agricultural boom of the BRIC Countries
– Brazil, Russia, India, and China.
Take for instance strawberries. California is the nation’s leader in strawberry
production. But as early as 2005, the California Strawberry Commission produced
a report on China’s strawberry market, saying, "China is becoming a more
important player in the global strawberry market." While their per-acre yields
are lower, their costs are significantly lower. The per-plant cost for strawberry
growers in China can be as low as $.0018
per plant, or about one
quarter the cost to American growers.
Much is at stake by remaining competitive in the national/international