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Alabama law takes toll on produce

Some Alabama farmers say they are planting less produce rather than risk having tomatoes and other crops rot in the fields a second straight year because of labor shortages linked to the state's crackdown on illegal immigration.

Keith Dickie said he and other growers in the heart of Alabama's tomato country didn't have any choice but to reduce acreage amid fears there won't be enough workers to pick the delicate fruit.

Some farmers lacked enough hands to harvest crops because immigrants fled the state after Gov. Robert Bentley signed the immigration law last fall, and some said they fear the same thing could happen this year.

"There's too much uncertainty," said Dickie, who farms with his brother on a ridge called Straight Mountain, about 40 miles northeast of Birmingham.

It's unclear how many farmers are changing their planting patterns this year because of the law, and it is equally unclear whether, as a result, consumers might see food shortages on the produce aisle at supermarkets. Some growers say they aren't making any changes from years past, and neither the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries nor the Alabama Farmers Federation has compiled statistics yet for the year.