Labor availability continues to be a top concern of agricultural producers, ranking as the second-largest challenge in our 2022 survey. With a tightened U.S. labor market and increasing competition from other sectors, the agriculture industry continuously struggles to find sufficient labor to cultivate and harvest crops. The H-2A temporary agricultural workers program aims to alleviate the burden by allowing agricultural employers in the U.S. to employ foreign farmworkers on seasonal labor contracts lasting less than then months. Since 2005, the number of H-2A job certifications has grown more than 500 percent, totaling 317,000 in 2021. It is estimated that H-2A jobs now constitute approximately 10 to 15 percent of U.S. full-time equivalent jobs in crop agriculture. 33 The majority of this growth is driven by the increasing need for seasonal labor, especially in labor intensive crop sectors, such as vegetables and melons, and fruit and tree nuts.

Historically, individual farm employers have been the dominant recruiter for H-2A jobs in the U.S. But farm labor contractors (FLCs) have recently been taking an increasing share. In 2020, individual employers and FLCs together accounted for 93 percent of H-2A employment, with the split being 49 percent and 44 percent respectively. The ability of FLCs to service multiple farms and manage the complexities of hiring foreign workers, as well as the lower risks associated with H-2A hiring, mean they are well positioned to become the dominant employer for H-2A jobs in the future. With an average contract value of $12,500 and 127,000 full-time equivalent jobs, the H-2A wage bill was estimated to be around $3.5 billion in 2020. 34 The increasing need for seasonal workers for labor-intensive farm operations should see the H-2A program grow further in the coming years.

33 The H-2A temporary agricultural worker program in 2020 | USDA 34 The H-2A temporary agricultural worker program in 2020 | USDA

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