Unemployed Probationers To Fill Farm Labor Shortage?

Statement from the Office of Governor Deal:

“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.”

Let’s go one step further: Prison labor.

Inmates: The legal illegal-labor option.


      • http://www.dcor.state.ga.us/pdf/CorrectionsCosts.pdf

        Regular Community Probation Supervision Net Cost to Taxpayers Per Offender Per Year – $377

        Intensive Community Probation Supervision Net Cost to Taxpayers Per Offender Per Year – $1,366

        Even if all 100,000 people on probation only cost us $377 per year, that’s still $37.7M that taxpayers are spending on probation supervision each year. Don’t tell me all of these people absolutely need to be on probation. This is ridiculous.

        • saltycracker says:


          Good point – backtracking your link to the site:
          The estimates were low as the actual numbers on probation are some 50% higher and one-third of them are drug related issues.

          Good stats to call for legislation moving a lot of drug issues from criminal to health issues.

          “In FY 2008, the probation population was 148,629 probationers under supervision. The most common crime type was drug related offenses (that includes possession, sale, distribution, manufacture and trafficking, with 54,250 cases. Property crimes were a close second totally 51,378 offenses”

  1. ricstewart says:

    Maryland crab house owners begged their state legislature to allow them to contract prison labor back in 2009. Since 2007, about 30% of crab houses in Maryland have closed for a lack of workers.

    Making America less competitive, one outdated, dysfunctional immigration law at a time.

  2. Lawton Sack says:

    To facilitate further discussion, I’d like to throw out a couple of questions:

    “Can it be done in a consistent manner?” If Farmer A has access to 5 prison/probation laborers through the program, will Farmer B (of comparable size) also have access to the same number of laborers? Will parts of the state with more criminal activity have more laborers to draw from and use?

    Also, is there any chance that prisoners or probationers are kept on longer so that they can work longer, i.e. during planting season or harvesting season?

    • benevolus says:

      First, I think there would be quite a difference between probationers and prisoners. Probationers presumably would not be compelled to take a specific job; they would just be in the job market like everyone else. Probation officers would just be trying to hook them up I guess.
      Prisoners on the other hand, would be compelled and your questions are more relevant to that. The whole pay/benefits/discipline/supervision scenario gets pretty screwy.

  3. bowersville says:

    Arrest all illegal immigrants. Lock ’em up in the county jail. Put ’em on probation and hire ’em out to the farmers.

    Snap! Problem solved.

  4. Dissent says:

    I don’t see how this makes any sense. The amount of legislation you will need to untangle the already existing probation laws and labor laws are gonig to be huge. Not to mention getting around the whole involuntary servitude issues.

    I think if you need to make new laws to fix the law you just passed you should maybe just rethink the last bad law.

  5. As distasteful as this sounds on its face, once an individual has a criminal conviction of any kind, it is much more difficult to get a job anywhere doing anything. That lack of opportunity directly contributes to recidivism rates.

    While I think Benevelous makes a good point, the lack of opportunity available to probationers will de facto allow employers far more leeway on pay/benefits/discipline/supervision. Then again, if these are jobs previously occupied by illegal laborers, that may actually translate to less leeway overall.

    It is difficult to believe that, in this economy, there aren’t people willing to work agriculture jobs in Georgia formerly occupied by illegals. But I wonder how much socio-economic overlap there is between the population of laborers most likely to take these jobs, and the population of Georgia’s probationers.

  6. ted in bed says:

    Cousin Pat is correct. Getting these people jobs is the first step toward independence. The simple reality is that you don’t get out of prison one day and then work for ATT the next. You got to restart. While these jobs are unglamorous, they can lead to other opportunities.

    Georgia Agriculture needs to mechanize and modernize. They can not continue acting like its 1855 with cheap slave labor and expect the rest of Georgia to pay the tab.

    • Here’s a hint to what griftdrift is talking about below: not everything can be picked by a machine. Other things that can be picked by a machine sometimes aren’t for aesthetic reasons. Take blueberries for instance. The ones you see in the produce section in the store are picked by hand. The ones you get in blueberry pies, jams, etc. are picked by machine. That’s because machines damage certain fragile fruits and vegetables as they’re harvested / handled.

    • ted in bed says:

      Simple facts are that Georgia farmers are using cheap labor with social costs paid for by others in order to avoid investing in automation. The farmer gets the profits and the rest of us get the bill.

      As for automation, the Ag business won’t invest in automation because of the availability of cheap vulnerable labor. Its a very short sighted position that maximizes short term profits but risks future viability of the business. Mechanized pickers in conjuction with optical sorters can effectively maximize quantity of store quality fruit. Key Technologies makes excellent optical sorters … http://www.key.net/

      Some day, Georgia farmers will find out that you can’t beat the third world at their cheap labor game. But we can beat the third world through efficiency as a result of automation.

        • ted in bed says:

          Than I deserve? I can only assume that you are one of the farmers/employers that knowingly hire illegals that the rest of us have to pay the social costs for. Thanks for the bill.

          Did you know Georgia eliminated slavery twice in the 1700’s? Both times Georgia Farmers claimed they couldn’t compete with plantations in other states and countries. After enough “give us slaves or you will starve claims”, the trustees relented and allowed slavery. Many of the claims today about needing illegals are the same claims made back then.

      • tib, Do you actually know any farmers who hire people to pick crops by hand?

        Many pay piecemeal and people who work hard (and can survive the sun in Middle and South Georgia) can make pretty decent money. It IS hard work.

  7. macho says:

    There is a certain irony in that there are people in a state complaining there are no jobs while the farmers in the same state are in desperate need of labor. I’m starting to think welfare payments are too high.

    • benevolus says:

      Partly a function of the digital age? Not a lot of field worker material out there anymore. Fat, weak, and never-held-a-rake need not apply.

      • macho says:

        Ha, I did think about the hypocrisy angle as I wondered if I lost my job if I’d be willing to head to South GA to pick blueberries.

        • saltycracker says:

          I can promise you if you are working with an illegal paid by the box to pick citrus fast with a technique that will not damage the fruit, at the end of the day, when he has twice the number of boxes you have, you’ll scream, get this guy a visa and let me get back to school !

  8. Three Jack says:

    swap undocumented workers who want to work for documented convicts. this just keeps getting more ridiculous by the day.

    • David,

      A lot of farmers reduced their planting anticipating the drop in labor. Some are not planting a second crop because of it. Some folks could not get all of their harvest in. The estimate is that it cost Dodge County, alone, about $1 million this year. South of us, where there are bigger farming operations, I’m sure it’s much more.

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