Apple growers in New York State depend on as many as 8,000 seasonal workers to pick the fruit each year. But with the U.S. Government breathing down their necks, billions of apples could end up on the ground.
There are 45,000 acres of apple orchards in New York State. And farm workers pick as many as 30 million bushels of apples a year. But all of that could be threatened by a new immigration rule pushed by President Bush in August. If a farm worker is found using a fake social security number, the employer would have to fire the worker or face a $10,000 fine.
"We don't have a dependable and reliable labor force to harvest our crops,” said Jim Allen, the President of the New York Apple Association.
He says the immigration reform has failed apple growers.
"To think that we could find 3 to 4,000 workers for three months here in Wayne County or here in this area to harvest apples it's just not realistic," said Allen.
Allen says farmers in New York State hire legal workers. While some critics don't doubt the validity of some workers, they're worried about the majority and what they might be taking away from U.S. workers.
"It's not the job of the grower to be the policing agency to prove that those documents are accurate or authentic," said Allen.
With the recent increase in immigration and customs enforcement, as many as 900 New York farmers could go out of business in the next two years.
"Our industry can't survive without labor," said Allen.
Many apple growers have been lobbying for a new Guest Worker Program, but the Senate tabled the program in June. Apple growers say it could take years before a compromise can be reached.