The use of the H-2A program has more than tripled over the last decade. According to a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, the number of H-2A positions certified by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) increased more than 220 percent between 2010 and 2019. The most significant drivers for the increase in H-2A workers were fruit, vegetable, and nut production, which all require a substantial amount of labor.
Between 2010 and 2019 the number of firms requesting H-2A workers increased 95 percent overall, to more than 10,000. The majority of that was from firms employing H-2A workers through farm labor contractors (FLCs), which increased nearly 800 percent. DOL confirmed nearly 260,000 H-2A positions in 2019, a notable increase from 79,000 back in 2010.
The report also notes that individual farm businesses may be dealing with increasing local labor challenges, which is increasing reliance on FLCs to help with the process for H-2A application and recruitment. According to the data, the number of firms requesting H-2A labor increased the most individually in the field crops category, from 2,300 in 2010 to 4,500 firms in 2019.
Listen to the radio report below.