North Carolina' s Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler is concerned about the availablity of labor as farmers take time in the winter to plan their crops. Not only is availablity a concern, but also the cost of what is available. A regional agronomist recently talked to a tobacco farmer who normally brings in 30 migrant workers under the federal H-2A porgram, but this year he's planning to do more mechanical harvesting and hire only 20 workers because of the cost.
The cost is roughly $1,000 per worker just to get them here, and this year the hourly wage paid to H-2A workers in North Carolina is expected to rise. These costs are forcing some farmers to re-think their labor situation.