Farmers desperate for guest workers


“For us, there is no non-H-2A labor,” said Dennis Brawdy, partner with Amos Zittel and Sons in Erie County, New York, which employs 72 workers this year. “Three to five years ago, we were 100% non-H-2A because there was an adequate amount of workers around,” Mr. Brawdy said of the vegetable-growing and greenhouse operation.

As the U.S. has tightened border security in recent years, many agricultural companies that had relied on illegal immigrant laborers are turning to H-2A visas. More than 196,000 H-2A visas were granted in 2018, compared to about 89,200 in 2014, according to the U.S. Labor Department.

But getting H-2A workers is expensive. Farmers incur additional costs such as transportation, food and legal aid to bring them into the country, as well as guaranteeing them at least 75% of their pay. And once those workers arrive, the farmers also must provide housing and other amenities, unlike non-H-2A labor.

In addition, H-2A workers in New York are paid $13.25 per hour, more than the current minimum wage rates for areas outside of New York City, according to the Labor Department.

It costs farmers an average of about $1,000 per H-2A worker—just to get them to the farm, said Dulce Demay, of Demay Labor, which helps match potential workers with farmers, including apple farms. She has helped 40-plus New York farms switch to the H-2A program over the last couple of years, mostly hiring workers from Mexico, she said.

From the Wall Street Journal

Data from the WSJ and the Economic Policy Institute

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