Clements: Data from the Department of Labor shows an increased demand for foreign farm workers. In the first quarter of 2018 the Department of Labor certified 15 percent more positions than they did in the first quarter of 2017. Overall, the demand for farm labor through the foreign worker H-2A program is up over 100 percent compared to five years ago. AFBF economist Veronica Nigh says the data supports comments from farmers that say they are having trouble finding workers.
Nigh: Farmers continue to voice that they are having trouble finding labor. Now, oftentimes it is difficult to measure that workforce, but the H-2A program at least gives us an instrument to understand the amount of demand that we’re seeing on the ground.
Clements: Farmers must advertise available jobs to the domestic workforce before turning to the H-2A program, and have increased wages to find more labor, yet the issue remains.
Nigh: Typically, you would think that increasing wages would draw more domestic workers to those positions. But, what we are actually seeing is that farmers aren’t able to hire those domestic workers and are turning, increasingly so, to the H-2A program.
Clements: Finding a solution to the farm labor issue is a priority for AFBF.
Nigh: The fact that we continue to see this increasing demand for workers through the H-2A program, that we continue to see those stories on the ground that farmers are unable to find the labor that they need and therefore they’re not able to harvest all of their crops, and the fact that we keep seeing more and more legislation introduced year after year, suggests that this is a long term issue that we’re going to have to deal with as an industry.
Clements: Micheal Clements, Washington.