The agricultural industry is facing a shortage of workers and some have turned to labor contractors that bring in farmworkers from Mexico under a temporary agricultural worker visa program called H-2A. The use of H-2A labor is not that quite widespread, but it has been growing and it will likely continue to grow. The temporary workers are allowed to remain in the U.S. for up to a year, they cannot look for other work somewhere else, and they do not have to pay income taxes or Social Security taxes. J. Edward Taylor, a professor at the University of California, Davis and an agricultural economist, stated:
Farmers will have to adjust to a new world of labor scarcity. The U.S. farm labor supply will continue to shrink because most hired farmworkers are from Mexico, and fewer Mexicans are growing up to be farmworkers.
Farmers seeking to hire H-2A workers have to meet certain criteria in order to bring in the foreign agricultural workers. According to the Fresno Bee,
The employer must provide transportation to and from the country of origin, free housing, demonstrate a lack of domestic agricultural labor for hire, and pay a high-enough wage – called the adverse effect wage rate – not to undercut the local labor market.
Critics of the H-2A program claim that it will bring about the same worker abuse issues that the old Bracero Program, which ended in 1964, had such as wage theft. Critics argue that the H-2A labor program is not the answer to fix the agricultural labor needs for farms and that immigration reform is what needs to be fixed.
The use of H-2A workers saw an increase of 1,598 in 2011 to 8,591 in 2015 in California according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor. California ranks fourth in the use of H-2A labor, with Florida being the state that uses H-2A labor the most.
The reason why the H-2A labor program is not used more is because of the costs associated with it, but the shortage of workers is likely to force more farmers to use more H-2A workers.
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