NC Farmers Say They Can’t Find Local Workers, Rely On Migrant La -

NC Farmers Say They Can’t Find Local Workers, Rely On Migrant Labor

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Danny McConnell has been growing fruits and vegetables for 25 years. He's a fifth-generation farmer and experience has taught him that he can't do his job alone.

But McConnell says he can't find employees locally.

"People know that jobs are here and we have occasionally had people come out, but then they see what they have to do. It's very hard," McConnell says.

McConnell is like many other farmers in Henderson County and throughout North Carolina. He struggles each year to find qualified domestic employees, so he uses migrant labor.

A lot of us, we come over here not because we want to get rich but just because we want to survive," said full-time worker Juan Ramirez.

Ramirez came to the U.S. from Mexico as a teenager with no papers. He found a seasonal job at McConnell Farms with other immigrants.

Now, Ramirez is officially a U.S. citizen and still work year-round with McConnell.

"This place to me is like a home, a second home," Ramirez said.

However, the state is making it harder for farmers to hire migrant workers. Starting July 1, farmers employing more than 25 non-seasonal workers will have to verify their employment eligibility through an online database called E-Verify.

A recent survey by the NC Farm Bureau found the new requirement could cause thousands of farms to shut down.

"We could be expanding our operation but right now, we can't do it because we don't have the employees to harvest it," McConnell said.

If farmers, like McConnell can't get the help they need, it could cost you. He says consumer may see less produce and higher prices at the grocery store if something isn't done.

McConnell was one of 300 Farm Bureau members that met with lawmakers in Raleigh this week to push for reform that would create a more stable agriculture workforce.

"I know it has been said, but we will either import our workers or import our food," says McConnell.

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