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January 9--  Georgia's new immigration law, known as House Bill 87, caused a loss of farm revenue in 2011 for some producers according to a survey by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

"Twenty-six percent of our respondents indicated losses they attributed to the labor shortage," says state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.

{mosimage}Black says the lack of federal enforcement of immigration laws has caused some states to address the issue.  Part of the overall solution is a workable guest worker program.  According to Black, "House Bill 87 is a perfect example of state's being frustrated with lack of action at the federal level. To protect their own soverignty and their own treasury, that's why we've seen these bills crop up in the states.  But, we should have been having discussions about the guest worker program if there had been a House Bill 87 or not.  The failure of the federal government to fix this program is why were having this discussion right now."

Bills to reform the guest worker program have been introduced in the House and the Senate.  Black testified before a Senate sub-committee last Fall.  "The general notion of getting a guest worker program that is applicable to all of agriculture, one that reduces the federal bureaucracy and limits the costs to producers has general agreement that we need to move forward," Black says.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, Black agrees that 2012 will be a challenging year for farmers because of labor shortages related to Georgia's immigration law and the slow pace of guest worker legislation in Washington.