The Atlanta Journal Constitution's fact check division has determined that a claim made by a Georgia labor leader George Fleming about the state's immigration enforcement law is mostly false. At a May 1 rally at the Georgia state capitol, Fleming claimed that HB 87 costs farmers $400 million during last spring's harvest even though the law didn't go in effect till July 1.
Fleming cited a University of Georgia study commissioned by the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association.The report is based on losses from the spring harvest, which is the largest and most significant harvest in the state for fruits and vegetables. The study does not mention HB 87 and it's impact. HB 87 did not take effect until July 1.
According to John McKissick, a UGA distinguished professor of agriculture marketing and co-author of the study, McKissick and his team surveyed 189 farmers about their labor troubles during last spring’s harvest. The results of the study for farmers only showed an acute labor shortage cost just under $75 million. Since the sample size was so large, 46.4 percent of the state’s total acreage in those crops, McKissick said it is fair to project the direct cost to farmers was about $140 million.
The $140 million loss result for farmers is nowhere near Fleming's claim of $400 million.
Along with the direct impact on farmers, the UGA report projected an indirect impact of the lost harvest on the rest of the state’s economy. Everybody gets hurt indirectly when crops don’t get to market, McKissick said. The report calculated both the direct (to the farmers) and indirect (to the rest of us) impacts of the labor shortage to be $391 million.
The estimated cost from the study Fleming is referring to is for the entire state, not exclusively farmers.
The thought behind HB 87 impacting the harvest losses is speculation.
McKissick said both the labor shortage and legislative promises to crack down on illegal immigrants occurred simultaneously, which would cause speculation and raise questions.
It is impossible to say with absolute certainty that HB 87 caused the labor problem. There is no evidence that HB 87 and the impact on last spring's harvest are connected.
Fleming also failed to make any reference to the H-2A program, which allows farmers to to hire an unlimited number of temporary guest workers as long as they pay them a prevailing wage.
Politifact concluded that It is not completely clear that HB 87 is responsible for all of the farm losses. But even if it is, the amount of those losses if far less than Fleming stated.
For more information on the story read Atlantic Journal Constitution's Politifact.
Updated: Wed, Jul 5th 2017 @ 4:24pm EDT