Farmers fear for workforce amid immigration crackdown - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Farmers fear for workforce amid immigration crackdown

Lewis Taylor Farms hires hundreds of migrant workers each season (Source: WALB) Lewis Taylor Farms hires hundreds of migrant workers each season (Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB) (Source: WALB)
Lewis Taylor Farms relies on the H2A program (Source: WALB) Lewis Taylor Farms relies on the H2A program (Source: WALB)
Bill Brim (Source: WALB) Bill Brim (Source: WALB)
TIFT CO., GA (WALB) -

Fears are growing among farmers amid President Trump's crackdown on immigrants.

The president's campaign promises for stricter immigration policies has farmers worried they could lose their workforce.

At Lewis Taylor Farms, the work to harvest the vegetables is a strenuous job. The Tift County farm brings in hundreds of migrant workers who put in long hours to get things done.

The farm relies on the H2A program. It's the one legal way to can bring in workers from Mexico and El Salvador to work on a temporary basis.

"We couldn't do it without the H2A program. People wonder why we can't domestic workers to come work for us, use American workers?" said Lewis Taylor Farms president and CEO Bill Brit.

Brim said the answer is simple.

"American workers don't want to work in the field anymore." 

That's why President Donald Trump's tough stance on immigration has some farmers worried they could lose their workforce. At a farm labor roundtable last month, the president reassured farmers he would seek to keep his tough immigration policies from affecting the U.S. farm industry.

Brim said he hopes the president keeps his word.

"He doesn't want to get rid of somebody that's got a job and is doing the right job I don't think," he said.

Brim said the H2A program does need some changes. He made a trip to Washington last month urging political leaders to make the program less cumbersome. He said it makes it difficult for some farmers to have access to workers.

"We've got to have workers to feed this country. And I hope President Trump will not do anything to change the H2A program except for the regulatory reforms that we've asked for. But we need the program."

This isn't the first time the farm has faced issues with farm labor. A few years ago, Lewis Taylor Farms battled a labor shortage after Georgia passed new immigration laws requiring the farm to use a federal database called E-Verify to check the employment eligibility. The tough law made it difficult to bring in migrant workers.

Brim said they hired more than thousands of domestic workers in the years following, but since then, only two remain.

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