Peach Growers in South Carolina Depend on Mexican Labor
South Carolina’s peach industry is heavily dependent on Mexican farm workers, who arrive each ear with H2A visas to a state where the illegal immigrant sentiment has deepened.
Russel Ott of the South Carolina Farm Bureau said that without Hispanic labor, the lucrative peach industry would not exist. He specifically mentioned those farm workers from Mexico who, for several years now, use to come there legally during harvest time.
Ridge Springs’ Titan farm, which is the Southeast’s biggest peach-growing operations, started to sell sweet peaches to stores located on the southern for the very first time in 17 years.
The mutual accord that was signed in early 2011 provide U.S. farmers right of entry to the Mexican market, which disallowed peach imports from the states of South Carolina and Georgia in 1994 for fear of pest.
On the part of Desmond Layne, an associate professor at the Clemson University, he said, “This is very important for South Carolina farmers becasuse Mexicans prefer the small peach produced in this region to the big ones preferred by consumers in the United States. It opens infinite opportunities to make money.”
U.S. Department of Agriculture Statistics revealed that the state of South Carolina, with its overall annual production of 90,000 tons, is the second biggest producer of peaches after California.
According to Dr. Layne, almost 1,000 of mostly Mexican farm hands are working in the $35-million-per-year industry.
Layne said, “They’re farmworkers with experience, they know the harvest, they’re dedicated, trustworthy, and always make an effort to do better. It wouldn’t be the same without them.”