Worker shortages, produce supply concerns grow due to immigration law
It's been almost four months since Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., signed a new immigration law that has caused a lot of pushback from the state's farming communities. Now, some are worried about our produce supply.
"It's very sad to see this happening," Denise Negron, the executive director of the Farmworkers Coordinating Council of Palm Beach County, said.
Negron told WPTV that since Florida's new immigration law took effect on July 1 a lot has changed.
"We serve many farm workers locally," she said. "This law has created a lot of fear among them."
The law cracks down on undocumented labor and includes penalties for businesses that employ undocumented workers.
"The things we have noticed, that some of them have left the state, some of them are afraid to go out because we don't know what's going to happen," Negron said.
DeSantis signed the bill in May.
"We're protecting Floridians with the full extent of our powers to do that," DeSantis said in May.
He called the law the "strongest anti-illegal immigration legislation" in the country.
Negron told WPTV that since then they've already seen worker shortages.
"They have a shortage not only in agriculture but in construction as well," she said.
WPTV also spoke with Renata Castro, a Coral Springs-based immigration attorney who thinks Florida's produce supply could also be affected.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we had losses that would result in shortages but also major financial losses to these large agriculture compounds in the state of Florida as a result of not having sufficient people to pick crops," Castro said.
The ACLU and the Farmworkers Association of Florida filed a lawsuit in July against DeSantis, Attorney General Ashley Moody and other prosecutors, calling the law unconstitutional.
Castro said part of the problem is it's become more expensive for farmers to hire staff legally.
"It has become more difficult for farmers to hire staff and it has become more expensive for them to try to hire staff legally," Castro said. "The H-2A visa, which is the visa designed for agriculture workers, has had a fee increase recently. It's a rather cumbersome and expensive process for the employer."
Negron said, on top of that, finding people willing to do the job is also an issue, which is why food shortages are eventually possible.
"If they don't have farm workers working, it's gonna happen and it's gonna affect all of us because this is the type of job that nobody wants to do," Negron said. "We really have to be grateful because if we don't have them, we would not have food on our tables."
WPTV contacted the governor's office to see if he had any comments about Negron and Castro's concerns, but WPTV has not heard back.
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