You want sweet potatoes from Alabama? You want tomatoes? Alabama farmers are saying tens of millions of dollars of crops may be lost this year because of immigration reform measures passed in the state which are making it difficult for farmers to find workers.
The law has been challenged in court, with at least a partial ruling expected later this month.
Farmers in one of Alabama’s leading agricultural areas asked legislators Monday to make emergency changes to the state’s tough new law against illegal immigration, saying millions of dollars of crops are at risk in coming weeks because of a sudden lack of hands for harvest.
About 50 growers packed a truck-stop dining room 45 miles north of Birmingham. They pleaded with three north Alabama lawmakers to amend the law and save what they called the lifeblood of the state’s agriculture operations: The Hispanic workers who pick vegetables, gather chickens from poultry houses, pull sweet potatoes out of the ground and make the cardboard boxes that hold produce.
Those workers are leaving the state because they are intimidated by the law and without them, acres and acres of crops will be wasted, the farmers said.
Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Wayne Walker said state officials fear it could cost tens of millions of dollars in losses if farmers can’t find enough help for harvesting. Tomato growers in east Alabama already are suffering because the law scared away the people who normally pick their crops, he said.
Below, farmer Jeremey Calvert speaking at the truck stop forum. He said legislators told him 80 percent of the people of Alabama support the new laws. “But 1 percent of us (the farmers) feed America and we need a labor force,” he says on the video. He continues that he and other farmers can’t find Americans or legal immigrants to do farm work. “We use Hispanic labor because we have no choice,” he says on the clip below.
Also from the Cullman Times:
“Give us hope, give us something,” said farmer Jeremy Calvert, who served as moderator at the meeting. “We feed more people than ever before. We have to have a labor force. There are no machines to pick fresh tomatoes or cucumbers. We use Hispanic labor because we have to. We’re caught between a rock and a hard place.”
Calvert’s words were repeated often concerning the largely Hispanic workforce that harvests the state’s and nation’s crops.