Farms Struggle With Immigration Crackdown

Onion farmer tends to his crop. Seth Doane.
Jim Zappala of Zappala Farms says the federal crackdown on illegal immigrant workers is killing his business - right in the middle of harvest.

His onion farm in western New York has been targeted by immigration officials twice in just six months.

Some workers have been deported - others are too scared to return, CBS News correspondent Seth Doane reports.

"To lose this crop of approximately 3.5 million onions - due to the lack of labor - is just gonna to be a terrible situation," Zappala said.

Now, onions that should have been harvested weeks ago just sit in the field.

A lot of people would say if Zappala paid more money he could get Americans to do these jobs.

"I don't think there is any amount of money that we could pay to get workers in to hand clip these onions, or help with the field work," Zappala said.

And, it's not just the Zappala's farm. Advocacy groups say across New York State the very survival of hundreds of farms could be at risk. And nationally, up to $9 billion dollars could be lost annually if farmers don't get the labor force they need.

Some 8,000 temporary workers are needed this fall to pick, by hand, three billion apples.

Couric & Co. Blog: "Laborers Are Petrified."
At Stone Ridge Orchard in the Hudson Valley, grower Mike Biltonen said it's harder this season to get the 12 migrant workers he needs to stay in business. In the past, the government has just looked the other way.

Aren't there laws on the books to be enforced?

"There are - they're intended to be enforced. I think they haven't been in the past because there has been a recognized problem," he said.

Biltonen said enforcing the current laws will only force operations underground, out of the country, or out of business altogether.