Alabama's horticulture industry is both the largest and fastest growing crop sector, comprising almost 40% of total state crop sales [U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), 2005]. Despite recent economic insecurity and the increased competitive pressure of globalization, the continued growth of Alabama's green industry provides a bright spot in the state's economy. Although Alabama's total crops cash receipts declined from $673.1 million to $583.8 million for the period 1980 to 2004, greenhouse, nursery, and sod sales more than doubled from $142.7 million to $263 million. Greenhouse, nursery, and sod sales made up more than 36% of total crop sales in Alabama (USDA, 2005).
Currently, the United States has many questions and concerns regarding the supply of low-skilled manual labor. A large portion of the agricultural labor force is made up of migrant workers; therefore, the immigration reform currently being discussed will have a substantial impact on agricultural labor. Although there has been tremendous growth in mechanization and technological advances in the horticultural industry, nursery, greenhouse, and sod production remains very labor-intensive. As a result of the perishable nature of horticultural goods, a skilled and accessible labor supply is imperative for continued industry growth and stability. The variation in labor composition among producers statewide, from local to migrant, highlights the need to study the use of migrant labor in the horticulture industry. Do migrant workers depress wages as is often feared by local workers? Do firms using migrant labor have higher sales? Are migrant workers likely to work longer hours than their local counterparts? How do producers' attitudes and concerns, regarding labor issues, influence their hiring decisions?
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