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January 2020, Volume 26, Number 1
Florida had farm cash receipts of $7.6 billion in 2017, ranking 18th among states, including three-fourths from crops. Citrus was worth $1.2 billion, including almost 90 percent from oranges. Vegetables and melons were worth $1.2 billion, including $262 million from fresh tomatoes and $206 million from bell peppers.
The on-tree value of citrus has fallen by half over the past decade, from over $1 billion in 2008-09 to $550 million in 2017-18. Florida has 400,000 acres of oranges, and grower prices have been falling, to a projected $1.60 a pound of solids (a measure of the juice squeezed from the fruit) for oranges picked in 2019-20, drown from $2.60 in 2017-18, due to the declining consumption of orange juice.
There were about 500 million gallons of orange juice in storage at the end of 2019, including imports that were made in anticipation of Hurricane Irma destroying trees in 2019. Instead, there was little hurricane damage, and some of the 74 million boxes of oranges expected in 2019-20 may not be harvested for lack of buyers.
Everglades Harvesting and Hauling won an injunction requiring DOL to certify jobs that involve transporting harvested oranges to processing plants to be agricultural labor eligible for H-2A visas. A federal judge agreed that transporting produce off the farm may be a nonfarm job, but "so long as agricultural work predominates," agricultural transport jobs should be open to H-2A workers.
Georgia. Georgia had cash farm receipts of $9.1 billion in 2018, ranking 14th among states. About half of Georgia's farm sales were broiler chickens. Labor-intensive commodities included onions worth $110 million, blueberries worth $85 million, and watermelons worth $75 million.
Georgia is typically first or second among states in jobs certified to be filled with H-2A workers. Heath Wetherington of Baker Farms in Moultrie, Georgia said: "There's just no way to have a dependable workforce without the H-2A program." Lewis Taylor Farms in Tift county grows 7,000 acres of fruits and vegetables with the help of 715 hired workers, including 500 H-2A workers.
Barrington Dairy in Montezuma, which produces a sixth of Georgia's milk, wants to hire H-2A workers but cannot because dairies offer year-round jobs. Barrington, which says that its current non-H-2A workers earned an average $43,000 in 2018, says that "Americans don't want to work" in dairies.
North Carolina. Scott Farms Inc in November 2019 agreed to pay $600,000 to 381 non-H-2A farm workers who worked alongside H-2A workers but did not receive the Adverse Effect Wage Rate; the attorneys who brought the case will share $175,000 in fees.
North Carolina had farm cash receipts of $11.4 billion in 2017, including two-thirds from animals and a third from crops. The leading animal commodities were broiler chickens worth $3.6 billion and hogs worth $2.3 billion, while the leading crops were tobacco worth $690 million, sweet potatoes worth $345 million, and fresh tomatoes worth $105 million.