Farmer wants level playing field - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Farmer wants level playing field

March 13, 2006

Tift County -- Agriculture is the life-blood of Georgia, the top industry. And many of the workers who make it successful are migrant workers, some of them here illegally.

Proposed legislation at the state and federal levels would crack down on illegal immigrants and try to level the field for farmers.

Bill Brim employees more than 300 migrant workers at Lewis-Taylor farms, all hired under H-2A, a federally mandated program that requires he provide them with housing, transportation, and pay each worker at least $8.07 per hour.

"It's a real unlevel playing field for me." Brim says. Unlevel, because Brim's workers are here legally. He not only pays for their transportation to Tifton, but also for their work visas and passports.

Costs passed on to consumers in price of product. "It's hard for me to compete, price wise. I have to get two dollars a box more for my peppers than someone down the road, that's using domestic."

And that's why he wants things to change. "I don't want to put anybody into a position where they lose their business, but at some point in time, we've got to do something about the illegal immigration problems."

He wants to see legislation passed that will lower the wage he's required to pay workers to a prevailing wage, and he doesn't want to have to pay for visas, or passports.

He thinks workers should do that themselves, and he thinks farmers should be fined if they employ illegal aliens. "The only way they're going to control illegal immigration is by fining us employers, but they can't just do it, say starting tomorrow."

Rather, he thinks it's something that should be done over a period of several years, so farmers can transition into another program, and level the field for everyone involved.

Bill Brim is going to Washington tomorrow where he plans to meet with Senator Saxby Chambliss who has proposed immigration legislation in the United States Senate.

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