Who is a guestworker in the United States? You may have a picture in your mind: a migrant Hispanic out working out in the fields.
There was great concern that the pandemic would lead to severe farm labor shortages, causing growers to leave crops unharvested. Fortunately, that problem didn’t pan out, as we learn from a report issued by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) in August 2022.
The government’s H-2A program for contracting with agricultural workers from abroad continues to expand in the first two quarters of fiscal year 2022.
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After long days spent toiling in fields under a hot Missouri sun, immigrant workers returned to what was once a county jail where their employer housed them in unsanitary living conditions and added to their misery by failing to pay them the wages they earned under their contract.
Although growers often complain that the H-2A process is cumbrous and expensive (requiring employers to pay for workers’ transportation to and from their native countries, for example), the program has greatly expanded over recent years.
What’s the outlook on farm labor? In a recent interview, Philip L. Martin, a professor at the University of California at Davis and one of the nation’s leading experts, made three major points.