PLANT CITY, Fla. — The nation is currently facing a worker shortage. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, there are only 53 available workers for every 100 job openings.

Additionally, farmers are facing difficulty getting workers they need in Florida after the passage of SB 1718 last year.

What You Need To Know

  •  A local farmer says that a new law is keeping him from hiring the workers he needs

  •  SB 1718 was passed last year and requires employers of 25 or more workers to register with the national E-Verify system

  •  He's had to pitch in himself to try to bridge the gap

Over the summer, the American Business Immigration Coalition sent a letter to President Biden, requesting an expansion of immigrant work permits.

But in Florida, farmers in Plant City are hard at work cultivating their next crop, still adjusting to SB 1718, the state’s immigration law that went into effect in July. The law adjusted current code and required any employer with 25 or more employees to use the national E-Verify system, which is the system for verifying an employee’s legal status.

If employers don’t comply with the law, they can face penalties.

The most recent data available shows that 83,442 employers in Florida are registered in the E-Verify program.

Supporters of this system say it is necessary for workforce regulation, while others say it’s affecting the labor market in a negative way.

Strawberry season is well underway, with rows and rows of strawberries ready to be picked, but there’s one problem. One farmer says there’s not enough people to work this strawberry season.

“In one month, this will be ready,” Fidel Sanchez said.

He has been growing strawberries for 10 years. He says a lot of work goes into creating the perfect one.

“We need a lot of hands-on deck here on the field, especially to pick the berries, a lot of people are needed,” he said.

But during a time when people are needed, Sanchez is struggling to find workers that allow him to meet the demand.

Sanchez said that as a result of the new law, he will not hire 25 or more people on his farm out of a desire to not use the E-Verify system.

“I don’t have more than 25 people because that’s what the law calls for and I’m following what the law says, but I don’t have enough people to work. There’s been instances where people ask if I have work for them, but unfortunately, I have to say no,” he said.

Sanchez is turning people away to avoid using the E-Verify program. But he also said some former employees were afraid to return.

To keep his business afloat, Sanchez is stepping in and making sure his crops are ready to be shipped.

“We want to give a job to those who are living here, but the government needs to realize that we need people to help with the economy,” he said.

Sanchez says in the meantime he’ll have to do his best to keep up with the demand to make it through this strawberry season.

Farmers across Plant City have also turned to hire contracted workers to help with the restriction from the bill. That’s one option that Sanchez said is too expensive for him to use.