The House is reportedly close to agreement on passing a new temporary farm worker bill. Here are some background facts, some drawn from earlier postings.
International migraiton of farm workers boomed in the 2010s in response to demand for workers. (Go here.) The U.S. is just one of many countries importing workers.
The majority of the 1.25 million hired farm workers today are foreign born. A tiny share are naturalized citizens, 20% are green-card holders, 10% are H-2A workers, and 50% are unauthorized. (Go here and here.) This shows that any serious attempt to increase legal farm worker immigration needs to replace unauthorized with legal workers.
H2-A farm workers are paid on average about $14 per hour. This is roughly similar to the average wage of a worker without a high school degree. in California and Washington, farm wages (all workers) were over $17. (Go here.)
The existing primary temporary farm worker visa, H-2A, was created in 1952. The H-2A workforce grew between 2010 and 2021 from 50,000 to 250,000. The leading states in which they work are California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and Washington. (Go here and here.)
The last 30 years showed a sharp rise, and more gradual decline in the number of unauthorized farm workers, and a rise in the number of citizen and green card workers. (Go here.)
In 2017, half of corporate farmers reported a shortage of labor, less than 5% were using H-2A. This is due in part to employer objection so the processing and other burdens of the program. (Go here.)