North Alabama farmers discuss shortage of workers

Long hours, low pay and lack of skilled workers are some of the things contributing to a shortage of farm workers.

Posted: Oct. 23, 2018 5:20 PM
Updated: Oct. 23, 2018 5:49 PM

There is a shortage of qualified farm workers and some farmers are feeling stretched thin because they can't find extra help to work the land. WAAY 31 talked to two local farmers Tuesday about reasons why there is a shortage.

J.D. Booker has owned his farm in Toney for 14 years. Booker is a former Marine and is not afraid of hard work. He said long hours is one of the reasons why there is a shortage of farm workers.

"It's hard, hard work. Long hours. Sun up to sun down."

Matt Haney owns Haney Farms and said another reason for the shortage is the lack of skilled workers. He said it's not as simple as hopping on the tractors. Workers need to know how to properly operate the equipment and there are safety concerns.

"You can have somebody that can sit up there and drive, but they've got to be an operator. They've got to be able to operate the machinery, know when something's fixin' to go wrong."

Booker agreed with Haney that things can go wrong if someone doesn't know how to use the equipment correctly.

"It's a dangerous piece of equipment, yes. You can rollovers. You can fall off the tractor."

A third reason Booker gave for the shortage is that children who grow up on farms are no longer taking over the family business.

"After they receive their education, they go into corporations and move off the farm."

Haney agreed but said he's fortunate that his sons enjoy working on the farm.

"It makes me proud that my sons do want to farm one day, but, you know, they'll need employees too."

Low pay is also a reason Booker said people are no longer interested in farming jobs. Both farmers said although the work is tough and the hours are long, the work is rewarding and they are hoping others will consider jobs in agriculture.

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