Farmers fear immigration law will put them out of business

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - It's an issue that has farmers fired up, and many wondering what will happen to Alabama's produce industry.

"If we can't get the food out of the ground and to the store then it goes to waste," says one farmer.

"I guess they'll have to arrest me here in a couple weeks because I've got a crop to get out," says another.

A ruling is expected Thursday regarding Alabama's new controversial immigration law. If the law goes into effect, farmers and agriculture officials say it could drastically change the farming industry.

Johnnie Mae Brown is no stranger to the farming business.

"I'm now 72 and I've been at this as long as I've been old enough to be at it."

Family members operate her small Autauga County farm, so she's not at risk for losing immigrant help if the law goes into effect.

But for others?

"It's going to be rough on all the farmers then, because that's all they depend on," says Brown.

Folks at the Montgomery State Farmers' Market on Coliseum Boulevard say if Alabama's immigration law is upheld, it won't just affect farmers, it could also affect consumers.

"If we don't have anybody to gather it, then we don't have no way to get it to the market. Produce would still go up because it's already too high now," adds Brown.

Brett Hall with the Alabama Department of Agriculture says produce is a $1.5 billion dollar industry in Alabama.

He believes its future rests in the hands of the federal court system.

"A lot of them [farmers] are waiting until the end of next week to see if they're going to stay in business or move on to some other type of farming," says Hall.

Still some folks say, the immigration law is necessary, but may need revising.

"I'm not too sure about the way it's currently set up, if that's the proper law. But I think there needs to be something," says Montgomery resident, Larry Forston.

Even if the farming industry feels the brunt in the beginning.

"We would all suffer financially, possibly...the farmers and individuals alike. But, I think in the long run it would balance out," says Billie Forston.

Until then, some farmers livelihoods hang in the balance--waiting for the courts to decide their fate.

Federal court Judge Sharon Blackburn is expected to rule on the law's constitutionality. Her ruling will not be on the merits of the whole law, just what parts are--in her mind--legal or illegal.

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