On August 25, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue traveled to his home state of Georgia to chair an Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Task Force meeting. Formed from an executive order by President Trump, the task force meetings allow growers and industry leaders throughout the United States to voice their opinions on needs for their respective industries.
One panelist in the Georgia task force meeting was Bill Brim, president of Lewis Taylor Farms. Brim spoke for fruit and vegetable growers in Georgia and the southeastern region. One of the biggest topics he addressed was labor and the H-2A program.
Brim said that labor is a huge issue in Georgia. He has used the H-2A program since 1997. However, H-2A is getting tougher to navigate as issues continue to arise. Brim is hoping the H-2A program will change to make it easier and less cumbersome for growers to use.
According to Brim, the biggest problem is the shortage of domestic workers in Georgia and in the Southeast. There are not enough domestic workers willing to do farm work. For example, Brim said in 2012 he hired 1,630 domestic workers and none of them stayed for more than three days. Then, in 2013, he hired 1,680 domestic workers and only one of those workers still works for him today. “People say ‘We’ve got plenty of people here in Georgia that want to work.’ Well, that’s not true,” Brim said during the task force meeting.
Georgia Representative Buddy Carter, who was also in attendance at the task force meeting, helped Brim and his colleagues connect with the Department of Labor to discuss these pressing issues. Brim said he is hoping to have another meeting with the department in mid-September to further discuss H-2A program issues and talk about administrative changes for it.
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