Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gov. Deal: 'Probationers' could fill open agriculture jobs

Posted By on Tue, Jun 14, 2011 at 11:33 AM

  • Emory Physician Assistant Program South Georgia Farmworker Project
Gov. Nathan Deal today buckled under pressure from the all-powerful former jailbird lobby and said probationers have a wonderful "employment opportunity" in front of them: Picking Georgia crops now that migrant workers have fled the state.

Below you'll find the governor's full release. Note that Deal doesn't say outright whether Georgia's agriculture industry is actually undergoing a labor shortage — and if so, whether it was caused by the state's new illegal immigration law, as some farmers have said.

“After a thorough review of the voluntary survey conducted by Georgia’s Department of Agriculture, under the leadership of Commissioner Gary Black, it is my understanding that there are some 11,000 employment opportunities currently available in the agriculture community for one day, one month or multiple months. Working in conjunction with Mark Butler, commissioner of the Department of Labor, Commissioner Black put together an honest and thoughtful data package, and I commend them and their staffs for their hard and timely work on this significant matter.

“The agriculture industry is the number one economic engine in Georgia and it is my sincere hope to find viable and law abiding solutions to the current problem our farmers face. Specifically, I asked Department of Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens and Commissioner Black to review the current situation and offer possible options. Commissioner Owens has indicated that there are 100,000 probationers statewide, 8,000 of which are in the Southwest region of the state and 25 percent of which are unemployed. Commissioner Owens is working with Commissioner Black and other state agencies to connect unemployed probationers—especially those in the Southwest part of the state—and others who are preparing to reenter the workforce to employers who are seeking labor. I believe this would be a great partial solution to our current status as we continue to move towards sustainable results with the legal options available.

“I want to encourage Georgia’s agricultural community to continue working with Commissioner Black. In the meantime, Commissioner Butler will continue to publicize the availability of agricultural employment opportunities and Commissioner Owens will work to potentially fill jobs on our farms.”

UPDATE, 2:06 p.m.: Here's a PDF copy of the survey, courtesy of the governor's office. Here's the original Georgia Agribusiness Council survey that showed some Georgia farmers were experiencing tremendous difficulty finding labor to pick crops and working with some visa programs.

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