Identifies options for streamlining the H-2A program and estimating the future supply and demand of farm labor.

“The H-2 program allows U.S. farm employers to request certification from the U.S. Department of Labor to have foreign workers admitted temporarily to the United States” in order to contribute seasonal, agricultural labor. The certification requires that two conditions are satisfied: 1) there is not a sufficient supply of local workers to perform the required duties, and 2) the employment of the foreign laborers will not adversely affect the working conditions or wages of local workers (p.ii).

“This report evaluates the performance of the H-2A labor certification process and estimates the future demand for and supply of farm workers.  The report is based on analysis of administrative and statistical data, a review of government and research reports and other materials, and interviews with Federal and state officials involved in labor certification and others with significant knowledge of the H-2A program” (p.i). (Abstractor: Author)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“Three key considerations influence the assessment of the current H-2A certification process. • “First, as Federal courts have explained several times, labor certification requires achieving a balance between efficiency and protection, assuring farm employers ’an adequate labor force on the one hand and protect[ing] the jobs of citizens on the other. Clearly, citizen workers would best be protected and assured high wages if no aliens were allowed to enter. Conversely, elimination of all restrictions upon entry would most effectively provide employers with an ample labor force.’ Courts have acknowledged that it is not easy to find and maintain the proper balance between efficiency and protection in the labor certification process. • “Second, the cost of certification exceeds farmer-paid fees. The NPCs and the SWAs spend at least $7 million a year on certification activities, while farmers pay just over $1 million a year collected in certification fees. Some states report spending two or three times the amount for which they are reimbursed to fulfill their responsibilities in the certification process, inspecting housing, conducting prevailing wage and practice surveys, and processing H-2A applications. • “Third, there are a series of management challenges involving tradeoffs between efficiency and expertise, changing the incentives of employer-applicants, and dealing with the program’s recent expansion. “The farm labor market exhibits continuity amidst change. For the past decade, expanded production of labor-intensive crops, such as strawberries, has offset the decrease in the demand for labor due to the partial mechanization of others, as in raisin grapes, to keep average U.S. farm worker employment at about 1.2 million” (p.ii-iii). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)