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Farm Labor Shortage in North Carolina

May 24

North Carolina might join a growing list of agricultural states experiencing a crucial farm labor shortage this season, adding to Tar Heel farmers' concerns amid the farm bill's uncertainties and the ongoing drought.

In certain agricultural states, immigration and farmworkers have been linked for numerous years. Tough new immigration rules aimed to prevent the influx of unauthorized employees drastically reduced the available labor pool in Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue.

However, North Carolina has not enacted a similar immigration statute. In comparison to their neighbors, state guest worker programs and immigration rules are rather liberal. Some experts believe that the labor shortfall is mostly due to a decrease in migrant labor from Mexico.

North Carolina is a major tobacco, sweet potato, and other fruit and vegetable grower. The agricultural sector contributes over $70 billion to the state economy (20 percent).

While North Carolina farmers have not yet faced the effects of diminishing labor pools, harvest season has not yet begun. Labor shortages could cost the farm industry more than $7 billion, according to the Farm Bureau. With such enormous losses, North Carolina is likely certain to be hit hard.

To take the matter into their hands, farmers are seeking out agricultural financing loans that can help them through a difficult time. This type of loan would enable farmers to maintain or even expand their business in the face of financial hardship.

It's unclear whether the North Carolina farm industry will experience the same fate as their neighbors, but one thing is for sure: farmers will have to get creative in order to keep their business afloat.