Ag Secretary attends Tifton listening session

Ag Secretary attends Tifton listening session
Ben Evans, Coffee County Gin Co., Inc. Vice Presidnet (Source: WALB)
Ben Evans, Coffee County Gin Co., Inc. Vice Presidnet (Source: WALB)
Sonny Perdue, US Secretary of Agriculture (Source: WALB)
Sonny Perdue, US Secretary of Agriculture (Source: WALB)

TIFTON, GA (WALB) - US Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue traveled to Tifton Friday, for a listening session on rural prosperity. At least one of his constituents believes local consistent labor is a large issue he's facing for his cotton farm.

"I kept hearing three things: trade, labor, and regulation over and over again," said former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue.

"What the president has told me to do is figure out how we can have a legal guest worker program in the United States to harvest the abundant crops that we do. And I think you will see some of that come about," said the Ag Secretary.

Ben Evans owns a cotton farm in Coffee County and thought today's panel was needed.

"Unfortunately, rural Georgia... rural America, does not get thrust in the limelight very much and we are creating an awful lot of jobs and creating communities for our people to live and work," he said.

Evans says there are jobs here, but it's difficult to hire full-time employees, since farms often need seasonal workers during growing seasons.

"It's the great misconception out there-- there's plenty of labor available. Well, there's not plenty of labor available to do the jobs that we have to do," he said.

Evans says he only has 22 year round employees for his cotton gin, but he gets about 50 seasonal workers.

"It's hard to go out and find somebody to do a full time/part time job."

He says when the gin is running his business is 24 hours, seven days a week, causing him to find labor that's willing to work 84 hours a week. And last year they ran 24 hours straight— for 88 days.

"It's very tough. It's demanding, you know it's hot," Evans said. "It's manual labor and that's all it is. And you've got to have a lot of people to do it. And the people in this country are not willing to do it. But in order for us to still have access to cheap food and cheap fiber we've gotta have access to labor."

President Trump established a task force in April to focus on agriculture and rural communities.

He elected Perdue to lead this task force.

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