BOISE, Idaho -

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.

State Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, the bill's author, 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 the inmates would make at least minimum wage and some of their earnings would help offset the cost of transportation and security.