Ag Chief: Mixed results for ex-cons on farms

7:10 PM, Jun 21, 2011   |    comments
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Video: Ag Chief: Mixed results for ex-cons on farms

Unemployed probationers are finding jobs on Georgia farms, but the program is off to a slow start.

ATLANTA -- Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black said only two big farms have signed on hire unemployed probationers to fill a labor shortage on Georgia's farms.

Black said many probationers have already quit, but he believes the program could be a partial solution to the labor problem.

"The reason I say there's potential is because producers are saying there may be some potential there," Commissioner Black said. "They're going through some people and sorting through the numbers, but I'm cautiously optimistic that we can refine this and have it ready for the fall harvest."

Black said one of the farms reported a crew of 11 probationers reported to work on Saturday morning. One of them left after 45 minutes. At the end of the day, only eight were left. On Monday, only five returned to the farm to work another day.

"You can dice those numbers," Black said. "But the issue is, will it be a solution for some? Can we find something like this that would work for some of those people who need a job and for the producers that have the jobs to offer?"

Black released a survey last week that showed a labor shortage of more than 11,000 workers on Georgia farms, commissioned after the state approved a controversial immigration crackdown.

"How do you think farmers will survive with that kind of labor shortage?" 11Alive's Jennifer Leslie asked Black Tuesday morning.

"We've heard from some people who say they're okay now, okay but scared," he said. "We've had some people indicate significant unmet needs."

"The ultimate answer in this whole dilemma is a guest worker program at the federal level that would work or potentially any type of waivers the federal government would give the states and let the states administer that," Black continued.

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