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Farm Bureau: Import field workers or import food

Posted February 27, 2013

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— The North Carolina Farm Bureau said Wednesday that a majority of farmers statewide are having trouble hiring qualified employees, and they asked lawmakers for support with immigration reform.

Farm Bureau officials and scores of farmers rallied outside the legislature, saying increased restrictions on migrant workers are limiting their ability to grow crops.

"We have to have the Spanish labor. Most all our employees are (Latino)," said Danny McConnell, a fifth-generation farmer in Hendersonville.

McConnell said his family farm usually grows 23 fruit and vegetable crops, but he is planting only four or five this year because he can't find enough workers to tend the fields.

State lawmakers passed a law two years ago requiring North Carolina employers with more than 25 non-seasonal workers to verify employment eligibility, and Farm Bureau officials said talk of tightening immigration restrictions further could put up to 10,000 farms statewide – 20 percent of the total – out of business.

"It already has had unintended consequences," Peter Daniel, assistant to the president for the Farm Bureau, said of the E-Verify rules, "and there are some in the General Assembly who would like to expand that."

Migrant workers, farm workers Farmers ask lawmakers to ease up on immigration rules

Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, said lawmakers are trying to balance other concerns with the needs of farmers.

"We're making sure they can survive and also making sure we're not a magnet area for bringing illegals into this state," Hise said.

Contrary to those who argue that undocumented immigrants take jobs away from unemployed Americans, farmers contend migrant workers are the only ones willing and able to do agricultural work.

"If you told me today I could no longer get those (migrant) people, I'd have to have to quit growing tobacco. It's that simple," Pamlico County farmer Scottie Whitford said.

Daniel called on state lawmakers to hold off on adopting any more immigration-related regulations and let the federal government handle immigration reform.

Hise said patience is running thin at the General Assembly when it comes to immigration issues.

"I think we're dealing with a Congress and a White House that's probably incapable of renaming a post office as they move forward, but that doesn't stop our needs here as a state to be able to do what's in the best interest of North Carolina," he said.

163 Comments

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  • FarmersVoice Mar 1, 6:08 p.m.

    We used to hire exclusively local people to do farm work. The problem is the desire of those on unemployment to do the hot, physically-demanding, long hours of work. There simply is no desire or drive, generally speaking, for them to do that kind of work. I am sure there are those who would be willing to do the work but might not be able to stand up to the physical demands of farm work. Farmers are not the sole proprietors of illegal immigration into this country. The problem is here and is not going to be fixed by any rant on this board. Call your Congressman and Senators and tell them to stop stalling on political budgetary issues and start doing what they were sent to Washington to do.

  • roadbird Mar 1, 2:30 p.m.

    I think we need to keep in mind that there are plenty of welfare recipiants that need work too. This would help the taxpayers as well. Remember the CCC Corp. Why can't our country consider that as well. While many immigrant workers may be legal, we still need a way to put our own to work over those that are ILLEGAL.

  • btneast Mar 1, 12:39 p.m.

    FarmersVoice and btneast I was wondering after reading some of the comments below if someone needs to define ILLEGAL for you?

    No, but you may want to look into a reading comprehension course. I am against illegal immigration anywhere anytime. I think a lot of people erroneously assume that all or most migrant workers are here illegally, and thats not the case. Are there some that are illegal, you bet....send them back I guess. The ones that are here voluntarily work the fields. Some of those aspire for more, and move on to better things. It's a stepping stone into a better world, like any entry level job.

  • Working4aLiving Mar 1, 11:38 a.m.

    FarmersVoice and btneast
    I was wondering after reading some of the comments below if someone needs to define ILLEGAL for you? FarmersVoice, if your workers are as you say "all legal to be here" no problem. You shouldn't be worried about the whole allowing illegal workers into the United States or North Carolina. Problem solved for you, but your neigboring farmers may have a different story.

  • Sherlock Mar 1, 11:38 a.m.

    Take all those on unemployment a put them in the fields. Like the old CCC workers.

  • Sherlock Mar 1, 11:37 a.m.

    Imported food does not cost the taxpayers that much and is a lot cheaper

  • btneast Mar 1, 11:35 a.m.

    But I don't think the tax he is withholding covers the expense these workers are costing our state.

    Hardly anyone pays individually enough tax to pay for any one service. I put two girls through Wake County Public Schools, and I know my property taxes alone did not cover their costs to the county, even though it sure felt like it did.

  • US Born Mar 1, 10:47 a.m.

    Maybe you missed where he stated he withheld taxes on his workers?...btneast

    No, I didn't miss that part at all. But I don't think the tax he is withholding covers the expense these workers are costing our state. And have you forgotten that a good precentage of these workers (NOT ALL) are working in the US illegally? I'm sorry illegal is illega anyway you look at it. So you are saying that farmers should be able to hire workers that are not legally in the US? And, I guess other businesses should jump right in and ask that we let even more illegals cross the borders so they can hire them. And we wonder what is wrong with our country...wow. OPEN THE GATES

  • btneast Mar 1, 10:18 a.m.

    I also agree with many others making comments about the Prison & Jail systems being used for labor to farmers as well as construction and work on our highways

    I agree with the sentiment on this, but the logistics involved would likely make it a non starter. Inmates require security as well as transportation back and forth from the prison. I'm all for hard labor while in prison, but forced labor will not be gentle with the crops, and that is essential on some crops. What incentive does an inmate have to do the job right as well? If he screws up, tears up the field, or picks crops not yet ready, he causes more damage than good. What are you going to do, threaten to send him to prison? It's just not a realistic option.

  • btneast Mar 1, 10:11 a.m.

    @FarmersVoice I am sorry but you are putting a burden on the rest of us considering our tax dollars feed and provide heathcare, among other things for your workers.

    Maybe you missed where he stated he withheld taxes on his workers?

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