Georgia Department of Agriculture Finds Big Ag Lobby Made False Claims about HB87

On January 3 the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GADOA) released a report on the effect of HB87, Georgia’s immigration enforcement law, on farmers in the state. The report, required by HB87, deflates the apocalyptic claims by the agribusiness lobby that the law would cause “crops to rot in the fields” and food prices to skyrocket. FAIR’s analysis of the report shows the claims made by corporate farms are false, and that those who benefit from employing illegal workers can afford to pay wages up to 40 percent higher and still remain profitable. It is not surprising that the GADOA report would substantiate FAIR’s work, but what is surprising is that the passage of HB87 had virtually no impact on the profitability of even the largest growers in Georgia

Entitled a “Report on Agriculture Labor,” the report is actually a 36-question survey, and a thoroughly unscientific survey at that, which was sent out to “over 4,000 agriculture producers, processors and other individuals in professions related to agriculture.” The GADOA received back 811 responses.

The definition of “agriculture labor” is also loosely applied. Only 57 percent of respondents identified themselves as “agricultural producers,” while 23 percent were in the “service industry (lawn and landscaping services, etc.).” The other 20 percent indicated that they were brokers, retailers, marketers, or “golf course superintendents,” etc. Of the 811 respondents 46 percent reported annual gross incomes over $500,000, and 30 percent, by far the largest group represented in the survey, reported gross annual incomes of over $1 million. Consider that only nine percent of crop farms in Georgia (the sector reporting the heaviest loses in the survey for 2011) have annual gross incomes of over $1 million according to the USDA, or that 43 percent of respondents are not involved in agricultural production. In this light, the 26 percent who reported “income loss because of the lack of available workers” (74 percent reported no losses or gains) demonstrates that HB87 impacted those employers who had chosen to hire illegal workers.

The Georgia Agribusiness Council, where Gary Black served as President before becoming the state’s Agricultural Commissioner, estimated that HB87 would result in losses of $300 million for Georgia farmers. Commissioner Black testified before the Senate in October 2011 that losses would be “somewhere in the neighborhood of $150 million.” The survey actually found reported losses in 2011 to be $10 million. That works out to be three percent of the original figure released by agribusiness in order to scare lawmakers away from supporting HB87. Put into a broader context, $10 million represents 0.015 percent of the state’s total agricultural output in 2009, and 0.0013 percent of the total state economy. No wonder when Commissioner Black was asked to respond to the survey findings he said, “We have to look at solutions,” instead of getting “lost in this million versus that million.” Talking about the actual results would expose his previous claims about HB87 as unfounded.

Even more damaging for Big Ag is that the overwhelming number of those who reported hiring fewer farm workers in 2011 blamed the poor economy or the prolonged drought conditions that have existed in Georgia for the past several years. A tiny fraction referred in any way to HB87. For those who hired fewer full-time workers, the breakdown was 54 percent economy/weather related, one percent HB87 related. 34 percent hired more workers. For those who hired fewer part-time workers, 40 percent indicated that it was economy/weather related, while seven percent responded that it was HB87 related. 23 percent reported hiring more part-time workers. So even in a survey where large growers are markedly overrepresented, HB87 is at the bottom of a list of complaints.

There can be no denying that many respondents who chose to submit written responses referenced the unwillingness of many Americans to work long hours toiling for little pay and no benefits. The number one reason given was that the government (federal and state) makes it more lucrative not to work by offering easy access to entitlement programs. But not a small minority of respondents gave unacceptably prejudicial reasons such as “Caucasian Americans & African Americans simply will not work full time or part time farm jobs,” (p. 102) and that “Hispanics love the work” (p. 106). When Commissioner Black writes that the “ongoing dialogue…will propel our nation towards a solution,” is this the sort of “dialogue” he is referring to? While it is legitimate to argue that entitlement programs have incentivized Americans not to take jobs as farm laborers, it is unacceptable to argue that the problem facing agribusiness in Georgia is “Lazy white and black workers” (p. 107).

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  1. Pingback: Many Farmers Continue Exploiting Farm-Hands » One Old Vet

  2. avatar

    WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING…. our gov was handing your job to an illegal to keep wages depressed. Then, in the mail you got the tax bills to pay for the illegals’ welfare, prison costs, and “free” anchor baby welfare. LOS ANGELES COUNTY alone puts out $600 million per year in welfare to illegals! GOT TO RAISE TAXES TO PAY FOR MEXICO’S OCCUPATION!!!

    “The president’s straddling can work for the time being. But unless he wants to end up in the sawdust, acrobat Obama will eventually have to hop on one horse and lead the way. That would have to be the horse named “Enforcement First.” CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR

  3. avatar

    Did not Georgia Banks collapse on a larger scale than most other SE States and could this not be attributable to extending liar loans to the many GA Illegals?

  4. avatar

    Who’s going to pick the crops once the illegals are made legal? Surely they will hop on the welfare bandwagon once they are elligible.

  5. avatar

    Hiring foreign workers to pick our crops has been going on for over 70 years. Why do we need to pretend now that the only farm workers available are illegal immigrants? Our Congressmen know this – or should know this. California’s government has essentially destroyed their state. They have a huge percentage of illiterate residents, high welfare costs, a majority of immigrants housed in their prisons, and they are bankrupt. What did they get in return for all their utopian foolishness? Nothing.

  6. avatar

    The first way we should change immigration reform is to clarify that birthright citizenship applies only to babies born to Legal American citizens. According to the laws of Mexican citizenship is that all babies born to Mexican citizens are automatically Mexican citizens, no matter what country they are in at the time of birth. Why should America make them be American citizens when Mexico has already claimed them to be citizens of Mexico. We should not over rule Mexico’s current law. Why are all our public signs translated in Spanish and not in all the other languages of the people in America from other countries? Such as German, French, Chinese, Italian, etc. Our population is growing too much because we are importing poverty. We can’t afford all the welfare for illegal immigrants. The money they earn in America is exported to their home country and not spent in America. How can this help the economy of America?

    • avatar

      Right on Lana. You have voiced what I have been saying all along. Someone once said that America is the only country left in the world that allows any babies born here to be automatically citizens. I’m not certain that is completely accurate, but it sounds like old “softy” America.
      Although I was born in New York City and I love the Statue of LIberty, we really need to change the message at the base. It says, “Give my your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free, the wretched refuge of your teeming shore. Send these the homeless tempest tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” That may be a subtle hint of why we are in the “fix” we are in.

  7. avatar

    I do not think that the American people are stupid, at least not as stupid as the political elite belive you to be. This is purely a political display of power. The message is (We know best for you because you are not smart enough to do so on your own) set down and shut up.
    Well, fellow Americans if we (you and I) don’t get involved in the political process soon, it may be too late.
    Obama and company is setting the stage for his last election and quite possibly the last election that Americans will see.
    Illegal immigration is a problem to many and a financial boon to may others. The best resolve is to close the southern border and then begin either removing those that are here illegally and begin a process to allow those people that want to come to this country for a legitimate job do so under a strict work permit process with harsh penalties for any violation.

  8. avatar






    VIVA LA RAZA?….. it’s what the la raza dems do best.. and then HAND US THE BILLS FOR THE REAL COST!

  9. avatar
    Ana Zuniga-Maus on

    I think that if agribusiness in Georgia take a fair income and give some of their revenue to American employees in salary and benefits, they will not have that problem, but if they want braceros again in America, they should take responsibility for the braceros needs, like housing, health etc. and don’t expect tax payers to pick up the tab awhile they put all the revenues in their packets. Another thing that need to be done, is to clarify the intent of the 14 amendment and stop automatic citizenship and the anchor babies.
    There is already way for them to bring the help they need, only it is easy for them to use the illegals and more profitable, but many things have to change in the way they have grown accustomed to do business, because we, the American citizens, are not willing to keep paying the needs of their illegal help, awhile they get richer.