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Tougher immigration laws lead to shortage of farm workers

In the past year or so, several states, including South Carolina, have intensified their immigration laws. The impact of this crackdown on undocumented workers is already beginning to show in various ways.

Recently, Fox News Latino reported that apple farms in Washington state are experiencing a major labor shortage and will be forced to leave plenty of fruit unpicked on the trees.

Many of the apple growers have even posted "pickers wanted" signs outside of their orchards in effort to recruit more workers.

Even though farmers said they have struggled with labor shortages for years, they said that this season has by far been the worst, likely because migrant workers did not show up this year because of the toughened immigration laws.

According to Fox News Latino, approximately 70 percent of Washington's farm workers are believed to be in the country illegally. A farm labor contractor for Washington growers said that until something is done at the federal level, "growers are going to struggle having enough workers."

The governor of Washington has been pushing federal lawmakers to act. In October, he brought a group of 15 farmers to the nation's capital in effort to persuade Congress to make comprehensive immigration reform a top priority.

The governor and the farmers told lawmakers that this could have been the third-largest harvest in state history had there been enough workers. They said they still need about 4,000 workers to complete this year's harvest.

Other states have been struggling with the same issue. Both Georgia and Alabama have implemented new programs attempting to put American citizens to work in fields, but neither has been very successful. It was discovered that many American workers could not handle the long days and quit.

Of course, some argue that if the farm industry paid more it would not have the same shortage of workers. Others believe that the federal government needs to revamp its guest worker program. Right now the program only admits a few thousand workers per year and it is known to be a long and expensive process.

Source: Fox News Latino, "Washington State is Desperate for Apple Pickers (Experience Preferred)," Nov. 9, 2011.

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