For years, migrant farm workers have played a crucial role in sustaining America’s food supply.
As reported by the National Center for Farmworker Health (NCFH), there are approximately 2.9 million agricultural workers in the US.
Nevertheless, the agricultural sector is still facing an ongoing shortage of labor. This shortage is driven by factors such as changing demographics, the seasonal nature of the work, and demanding conditions.
For US employers, understanding the key factors involved in employing migrant farm workers is essential to uphold equitable and legal employment practices.
Migrant Farm Workers in the US: Key Considerations
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), migrant farm workers make up about 73% of the US agriculture workforce. Their essential role fuels the economy, reflected in the $1.053 trillion food and agriculture industry.
While every state plays a part in food production, California, Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, and Minnesota collectively contribute more than one-third of the total U.S. agricultural output value.
Let’s explore a few key considerations regarding migrant farm workers in the US.
- Essential Immigrant Workforce: Migrant farm workers play a vital role in the industry and therefore, in the US economy. Without these workers, the US would face decreased agricultural production and potential food supply disruptions.
- Persistent Labor Shortage: The US grapples with a continuous agricultural labor shortage. According to a survey cited by UC Davis, 56% of California farmers experienced difficulties in recruiting the workers they needed at some point over the past five years.
- Undocumented Workers and Legalization: The Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMSNY) estimates that there are approximately 283,000 undocumented migrant farm workers in the US.
- Benefits of a Stable Workforce: Legalizing undocumented workers can positively impact the budget, boost output, and create jobs. This, in turn, can stabilize agriculture and curb rising costs.
H-2A Visa Program for Migrant Farm Workers
When facing worker shortages, the H-2A program allows US farmers to bring in foreign workers for temporary or seasonal labor.
Seasonal work is tied to specific times of the year, such as the harvesting season. Temporary employment is limited to one year unless extraordinary circumstances exist.
As an employer, you can qualify for this program if the US Department of Labor ensures:
- Insufficient US workers for the desired temporary or seasonal agricultural labor
- No adverse impact on wages and working conditions of U.S. workers in similar roles
To apply for this program, you must complete the following steps before filing a petition with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):
- Employ the FLAG online system for filing a job order 75 to 60 days before your initial date of need.
- Electronically submit an H-2A application with required documentation at least 45 days before your start date.
- Implement positive recruitment for U.S. workers after application acceptance. The acceptance letter will include instructions on how to submit a recruitment report to the competent authorities.
- Upon certification approval, receive a final determination notice, approval appendix, and invoice. The competent authorities will also dispatch documentation directly to USCIS via FLAG.
You can find more information about the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program here.
Unlocking Additional Insights
Dive into an in-depth manual on hiring foreign workers in the US. Whether you’re looking for migrant farm workers or other types of workers, our meticulously crafted resource explores all the details of the hiring process.
The guide offers valuable insights and step-by-step guidance to guarantee a seamless and lawful recruitment experience. Access the complete guide here.
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