Farm labor is evolving – more legal immigrant workers

Important changes are afoot in the use of immigrant workers in farming: more dependence on legal immigrants, higher wages. This is one element in the gradual normalization of the immigrant workforce in America: better paid, less dependent on an unauthorized workforce.

Hired farm labor was 53% immigrant (70% of them unauthorized) in 2014. In 2019, the immigrant share declined to 49% (and 55% of these were documented). (Go here.) Thus we see a decline in the use of immigrants. Farms are employing much fewer unauthorized workers.

Over the same period, temporary farm labor visas (H-2A) increased from 89,000 to 213,000!

It appears that American agriculture is trending away from using immigrants here in the U.S. either legally or illegally towards using temporary workers from Latin America (almost all from Mexico).

The wage benchmark for farm labor used as part of the visa program increased by 20%; in 2021 the wage benchmark was $14.62 vs $10.36 in 2010. Thus farms that use H-2A workers are paying their workers more.

One side effect: more produce is being imported. The great majority of raspberries are now imported.

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