Tomato Farmers Worried About Workforce

By: Deanna Bettineschi Email
By: Deanna Bettineschi Email

Their work force is dwindling, and they say it’s all thanks to the immigration law.

John Aplin knew the immigration law would affect his business, but he didn’t know to what extent.

“As expected as we have begun to harvest some of our crops, we are beginning to feel that it is going to be very difficult to get labor this year.” Farmer John Aplin said.

Before the law went into effect, Aplin said he had plenty of help in the field.
But concerns about what the law would do sent more than just illegal immigrants out of the state.

“We had an abundance of labor before the immigration law and our labor force is legal Hispanics.
But a lot of them left as well as the illegal because they didn’t know what this was all about.” Aplin said.

And it’s not just Aplin who is suffering.
Wiregrass extension agents say it's affecting farmers all over the state.

“There has definitely been a lot of uncertainty as to whether or not they will have as much labor to get their crops harvested.” Wiregrass Extension agent Neil Kelly said.

Aplin says it’s very difficult to find consistent experienced workers.

“We are not striving to do anything illegal. We do not want an illegal work force we want to stay within the law but we want the law to be workable too and the one that’s present is not.“

Aplin says the only way to fix the growing problem of labor shortage is to completely change the law.

“I would like to see the law repealed. I agree we need to have something done about immigration in the country, we have to control immigration to some extent.” Aplin said.

He believes starting over is the only way to save his company and many others from losing everything.

Aplin says since the immigration law is already in effect, he will learn from what’s happened this year, and prepare for the next harvest season.

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  • by bill Location: DOTHAN on May 19, 2012 at 03:42 AM
    HACIMO- THEY DO NOT WANT TO HEAR THAT !!! and barbara does not understand this is not 1960 anymore ! very few people can pick 6 hampers of peas a day and that is only $24 for the 2 they get to keep - maybe $4 per hour ???
    • reply
      by Barbara on May 20, 2012 at 08:28 PM in reply to bill
      We're not talking money here, Bill. We're talking food. Thats 9 hampers a day, Bill. We are talking helping the farmer as well as helping ourselves. Peas are 20 dollars a hamper. But of course I do realize that people now days are weak and they'd rather starve than to have to pick their own food.Even to see how it is grown and how it gets from the field to the table.I agree it's not the 60's. People had to work back then. Our little family were more healthy because we had fresh vegetables everyday, raw and cooked. A little field work probably would help anybody. You're out in the fresh air excercising.
  • by SouthernPatriot Location: Dothan on May 16, 2012 at 10:28 AM
    Let me get this straight...Almost 10% unemployment, but farmers can't find help to harvest the crops. Is there that many lazy Americans out there? When I was a kid, I would help farmers harvest crops, just to make a little extra money. There was a time when Americans would work at any job, if it put a meal on the table. Maybe those times have passed...If they don't get dental, medical, retirement benefits, etc., some are not interested. It's easier to sit at home, play their X-Box and draw a government check...pitiful.
  • by Barbara Location: Florida on May 15, 2012 at 11:22 AM
    How come you can't pay with tomato's ? People could help pick your tomato's and get tomato's to. Get tomato's for their freezers. When I was about 30, I helped a man pick peas. For ever 2 hampers of peas I picked for him, I picked one for my self.He got 6 hampers of peas and I picked 3 for my self.Worked out real good for me.Every body whines about food so why can't the farmer work something out like that ? Sure farm work is hard but it's better than having your belly empty.
  • by hacimo Location: brookline ma on May 14, 2012 at 04:12 PM
    How come no one ever mentions how much theses farmers are offering their workers. How come that never mentions if they provide social security and workers comp? How come the reporter never asks for specifics about the efforts the farmers are taking to recruit and retain legal workers. The line about how some legal Hispanic workers are leaving is a real joke. Is anyone stupid enough to beleive that? I know the farmers have gotten used to hiring semi-slaves and paying them slave wages but those days are over. Americans are not slaves and if they want their tomatoes picked then they had best treat their workers with respect and offer a living wage. Otherwise they had best grow some other crop like corn or cotton.
    • reply
      by jellybeans on May 18, 2012 at 02:32 PM in reply to hacimo
      hey barb ever heard of food banks or food stamps? no body is going to work in the hot sun all day for a bucket of peas or come out of the sun relax, have some ice tea,watch t.v. they are no empty bellys in the u.s. thats only in those third world countrys,
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