This article is from the archive of our partner .

Alabama agriculture officials are stumped over how to keep farms operating now that the state's draconian new immigration law chased away all of the low paid (however illegal) labor. The latest idea: Hire prisoners. The Associate Press reports:

The nursery and landscape industry will need as many as 4,000 workers in southern counties early in 2012 to get ready for the growing season, he said, and forestry and farming will require still more laborers. Unable to find legal residents to fill all the employment gaps, [Deputy commissioner with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Brett] Hall said the Agriculture Department is consulting with the Department of Corrections to determine whether prisoners could do some of the work.

But we thought America was experiencing an economic downturn, leaving many Americans out of work. A quick Google search reveals that Alabama is actually worse off than the rest of the country, with a 9.3 percent rate of unemployment. What's wrong with helping out on a farm? Is the pay crappy? That's actually not it:

Farmers have complained of a lack of field hands since parts of the law took effect in late September. Many have said legal residents aren't physically able or mentally tough enough to perform the work, and others won't do so because it doesn't pay enough.

Hall said the agriculture positions pay well above minimum wage, but many Americans find them too "physically taxing" to perform.

This sounds just like that comedic mockumentary that Hollywood dreamed up a few years ago, A Day Without a Mexican, except it's not that funny because it's actually happening. Also kind of sad.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to