Georgia Program Replaces Migrant Farm Workers With Ex-Cons

Recent immigration crackdowns in Georgia have left the agricultural sector with a labor shortage. A big one. An unscientific poll puts the gap as high as 11,000 workers, but plants still have to be harvested. The governor responded to farmers’ complaints with a new program that puts people on probation to work in the fields at minimum wage, with bonuses for high production. This seems like an ideal match: probationers have a higher unemployment rate than the general population, and farmers need people in the fields. It turns out, though, that hard work, hot weather, low pay, and inexperienced workers don’t make for a very bountiful harvest.

One probationer told the Associated Press:

“Those guys out here weren’t out there 30 minutes and they got the bucket and just threw them in the air and say, ‘Bonk this, I ain’t with this, I can’t do this.’ They just left, took off across the field walking.”

With bonuses, an experienced worker at the cucumber farm AP reporters visited can make as much as $20 per hour. That depends on speed, something the new workers don’t have going for them yet.

Ga. puts probationers to work harvesting crops [AP] (Thanks, Arif!)