PRINCETON - Kentucky's tobacco producers are trying to finish harvesting a tobacco crop that enjoyed good growing conditions much of the year, but labor shortages and weather delays are putting a damper on the process."With the ongoing debate over immigration reform and increased competition for workers from other job markets, the pool of migrant workers available to tobacco growers has shrunk considerably," said Bob Pearce, a tobacco specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. "Workers were available in most areas but not in sufficient numbers to harvest the tobacco crop in a timely manner."
Tobacco growers across the state dealt with labor shortages, perhaps more so in central Kentucky. In western Kentucky, labor arrived a couple of weeks later than usual, and sometimes there were a few less workers than expected, said Andy Bailey, a UK tobacco specialist based at UK's research center in western Kentucky.
Most farmers in western Kentucky use a federal guest worker program called the H2A Program, which sets specific guidelines farmers and the workers must follow. Because of increased border scrutiny, the process took longer than usual and some workers were turned back, Bailey said.