Agriculture Trends Focus Report: H2a Workers



This page has been created as a resource for Migrant Education Programs interested in in keeping up with current trends affecting US Agriculture. It is a collaborative project between the IRRC Consortium and the GOSOSY Consortium.


The H-2A visa program allows farmers anticipating shortages of U.S. seasonal workers to be certified by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to recruit and employ foreign workers with temporary, nonimmigrant visas. 





Government Confirms A Surge In Foreign Guest Workers On U.S. Farms


The numbers are out — and they confirm what we've been hearing from farmers and immigration lawyers. More and more farmers are turning to foreign "guest workers" to plant and harvest the country's crops.Read More







Workers hired directly by farm operators numbered 840,000 for the reference week of October 8-14, 2017, up 5 percent from the October 2016 reference week. There were 879,000 workers hired directly by farm operators on the Nation’s farms and ranches during the week of July 9-15, 2017, up 5 percent from the July 2016 reference week. Read the report.




Farmers seek for alternatives to H2A workers while others embrace the program.


Thomas Hertz, an economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said the H-2A program “is not the farm industry’s first choice.”

“Growers would like even more labor, because demand for fruits and veggies keeps growing, too,” Hertz said in a statement.

He said the farmworker visa program can be more costly for farmers, because of administrative expenses and because it requires that employers supply housing and transportation for any H-2A workers they hire. Read More





Interactive H2a Map
This map details the number of H-2A workers certified in 2015 by city, job title, and employer. The size of the circles indicate the number of workers, and the color of the circles indicates the job task.
This data set excludes employer applications that were either withdrawn or denied.  This data was obtained from the United States Department of Labor and can be viewed on the Foreign Labor Certification website.
Learn More







Migrant labor is relied upon all over the world and is just about as old as civilization itself, “a global flux as complex and shifting as weather, with nations of fewer resources off-loading their ambitious working poor and relying on the money that comes back in their place,” as reporter Cynthia Gorney described it in National Geographic.

It’s a nomadic existence dictated in many ways by the seasons. The work is temporary, so the workers are  rarely have rights nor unions to represent them, many are afraid of reporting abuse, and the average migrant worker makes only make about $10,000 a year in the U.S. View the Article and Photos





Farms across the California are facing a serious labor shortage — 9 in 10 farm workers in CA are foreign-born, many from Mexico. According to the PEW Research Center, more Mexican immigrants are leaving the U.S. than arriving.




Interactive Map of U.S Immigrant Population by State and County

This map displays the geographic distribution of immigrants in the United States by country of origin.* Hover over a state to get the total foreign-born population and doubleclick on a state to get top county estimates. Use the dropdown menu under the map to select a particular country or region of origin. To deselect, click outside the U.S. map. When a state is selected, counties within the state are ranked. View the Map






H-2A visas by the numbers:

• 165,741: Number of H-2A jobs certified in 2016
• 14%: Increase in H-2A jobs since 2015
• 160%: Increase in H-2A jobs since 2006
• 134,368: Number of H-2A visas issued to workers in 2016
• 167: Average number of days H-2A jobs were certified for in 2016
• Approximately half of H-2A jobs in 2016 were certified in 5 states: Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Washington, and California
• 7%: Percentage of the crop workforce that H-2A workers represent

Read More




According to Maine’s Department of Labor, 18 percent of paid farmworkers reported by Maine farm operations are migrant workers. Those are defined as workers who have traveled far enough to work that they are unable to return home at the end of the day. They might have traveled from across the state, or come from big agricultural states, like Washington, Texas, Minnesota, Michigan and Florida, but most are foreign-born.


Typically about two dozen Maine farms participate in the H-2A program. Last year it was 27, ranging from orchards to vegetable farms, and in total, they requested 635 employees. Read More




Delays in Processing H2A Applications


Eason, a blueberry farmer in the South Georgia town of Alma, in January used the U.S. Department of Labor’s migrant worker visa system to request 100 migrant workers from Mexico. None have arrived yet.

Russ Goodman in January requested 500 migrant workers from Mexico to arrive at his 600-acre Homerville farm on March 1 to pick blueberries. So far, he has 30.

“A week or two is a delay. Two months is you’ve lost your crop,” said Goodman, who estimates he has already lost several hundred thousand dollars. Read More


Additional Articles

Ag Industry says visa program for farm labor again facing slowdowns

Farmers Wait and Wait for Guest Workers Amid Visa Delays




View the Department of Labor

H2a Public Job Registry