Ag Policy Blog

Farm Bureau Highlights Growing Demand For H-2A Workers

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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This chart from the American Farm Bureau Federation shows the growth in fourth-quarter demand for H-2A guest workers from farms from July through September going back to 2012.

The American Farm Bureau Federation is spotlighting the record demand for temporary farm labor under the H-2A program for the federal fiscal year 2018 that hit 242,762 certified positions, a 21% increase over 2017 figures.

Farm Bureau points to the growth in demand for the fourth quarter of the fiscal year running from July through September. Just seven years ago, there were roughly 15,000 temporary jobs for immigrant workers under the program during the fourth quarter of the year. But the growth has risen dramatically over that time to the Department of Labor certifying more than 49,000 positions in the fourth quarter of 2018, a 23% increase just from a year earlier.

Berry farms are among the largest users of H-2A as growers of an array of berries took up more than 25,000 jobs in FY 2018, up 16% from a year earlier, Farm Bureau noted. "General farm work" was the second-highest category, followed by tobacco, apples and melons.

While H-2A works for farmers of seasonal crops, other agricultural jobs that need year-round labor are unable to use H-2A. Those include dairy farmers and other livestock producers that have backed different initiatives in Congress to overhaul agricultural guest-worker programs.

Georgia now has overtaken Florida as the state with the most certified H-2A positions. Behind those two states are Washington, North Carolina and California, all of which have seen farm operations bring in higher volumes of H-2A workers over the past five years. Georgia saw a 38% growth in new H-2A positions from 2017 to 2018.

Louisiana, Kentucky, New York and Arizona fall next in line for state rankings. Another state seeing dramatic growth in H-2A positions is Michigan. Farm Bureau's analysis notes Michigan had 24% growth in just hires in 2018, and had cracked the top 10 for H-2A states just a year earlier.

Farm Bureau's insights, including more charts, can be found at…

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