Concerns over Alabama's immigration law could lead to some farmers cutting back on this year's crop output.
Early farm forecasts in Alabama show that some of the state's farmers are planting less this year, particularly those tending labor-intensive produce crops like tomatoes and melons.
Agriculture experts said labor shortages caused by the exodus of illegal immigrant workers are one source of the cutbacks, along with higher wages for home-grown workers filling their spots. Some farmers claimed they didn't have enough hands to harvest last year's crops, a scenario that has apparently spurred many of them to scale back production.
Madison County Farmers Federation President Rex Vaughn said growers like himself who focus on cotton and corn would be minimally impacted since those types of crops are already dominated by machinery. But Vaughn predicted that the produce growers who cutback would likely have an impact on grocery prices later this year.
"We will eventually see an increase in produce prices at grocery stores," said Vaughn, who noted that produce imports from other states could help to soften any potential price spike. "You could very easily see a ten to twenty percent increase in prices...A lot of farmers are making the adjustments, they see no other option. They're trying to comply with the law."
It's not yet clear just how many farmers will end up changing their planting patterns. Vaughn said some farmers have adjusted quicker than others to the law, particularly those able to afford higher wages for homegrown workers. Farmers who have opposed the law have said they are not able to find enough legal citizens to fill laborer positions vacated by illegal aliens.
According to the Alabama Farmers Federation, more than 1,000 farmers grow labor-intensive produce in the state.