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Bill Would Use Idaho Inmates for Harvest

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A bill that would allow Idaho farmers to use prison-inmate labor when there is a farmworker shortage is before the Idaho state Senate. The bill would allow inmates to help grow, harvest or process perishable Idaho farm commodities. The bill’s author state Sen. Patti Anne Lodge says fruit growers in southwestern Idaho have struggled to find enough workers in recent years. She says a lot of pears in the Sunny Slope region near Caldwell went unpicked last year. The Capital Press reports that some of the inmates’ earnings would help offset the cost of transportation and security. The bill was welcomed by Dan Symms of Symms Fruit Ranch, which grows apples, peaches, cherries, plums, apricots and prunes in the Sunny Slope area. He says some of his fruit went unpicked two years ago because of a lack of labor, and the operation struggled to get everything picked last year. Lodge says the program would help reduce costs to the state and society because some of an inmate’s earnings would go into a fund that would be used to pay restitution, child support and other court-ordered legal judgments. Some of the money would go into commissary funds, and some would be set aside to help inmates get a fresh start when they are released. The bill stipulates that the use of inmate labor cannot result in employed workers in the region being displaced

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