October 10-- The lack of labor cost Vidalia Onion farmers an estimated $16 million last growing season according to a produce industry study.
Overall the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association estimates Georgia's new immigratiion law cost farmers of seven commodities about $140 million.
Aries Haygood is the Chairman of the Vidalia Onion Growers Committee and says the new state law means many migrant workers are bypassing work in Georgia.
"With the new law a lot of us farmers who rely on that help are seeing an impact from the workforce actually moving from Florida on up to North Carolina and not coming to Georgia. Since we can't find enough workers here, we count on that labor to be efficient," he says.
Officials from Governor Deal's administration have been meeting with farmers to find solutions and Congressman Jack Kingston has visited Vidalia for ideas on making the federal government's guest worker program more responsive to farmers.
Haygood hopes help is the on the way and the sooner the better. "I feel like we've got a lot of folks supporting us and trying to come up with a good program. We'll find out in November when we begin to plant the crop. I want to stay optimistic," he says.
Meanwhile, the produce growers association says over half the growers it surveyed are planning to cut back on acreage because of labor uncertainities.