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Report, Changing Face: Focus on Napa

Report of the Changing Face Conference:

Focus on Napa Valley

October 5-7, 2000

Philip Martin, Michael Fix, and Edward Taylor

Abstract................................................................................................................ 1

Immigration and Integration............................................................................. 2

Napa Valley Communities.................................................................................... 4

The Napa Wine Business......................................................................................... 6

Ergonomics............................................................................................................ 7

NAWS at 10.............................................................................................................. 8

Summary................................................................................................................ 8

NAWS Evolution..................................................................................................... 9

Annual RAW Admissions........................................................................................... 9

Worker Characteristics: 1996-98......................................................................... 11

Characteristics...................................................................................................... 12

Migration............................................................................................................. 12

Labor Market Operation......................................................................................... 13

Employers and Benefits........................................................................................... 14

Income and Assets.................................................................................................. 15

NAWS Trends: 1989-1998........................................................................................ 16

NAWS and Regions: 1993-98.................................................................................... 16

NAWS in the 21st Century...................................................................................... 18

Changing Face Agenda........................................................................................ 18

NAWS at 10 Agenda.............................................................................................. 20

The sixth changing face seminar was held October 5-7, 2000 in Davis, CA, with a field trip to the Napa Valley. Changing face seminars examine the impacts of immigrants on the industries and communities in which they are employed, and prospects for integrating immigrants and their children in these industries and communities.

This seminar focused on the challenges and opportunities posed by immigration and integration in the Napa Valley, an Agri-Tourism center, attracting visitors who buy farm products (wine) directly from the producer. The discussion addressed three hypotheses:

· Napa is as good as it gets for farm workers, with higher-than-average hourly and annual earnings because most are employed in wine grapes, which has a longer-than-average season. Growers in an Agri-Tourism area fear by bad publicity about farm worker wages and conditions, encouraging better wages and conditions.

· New farm workers in Napa are foreign-born migrants with little education, as in the rest of agriculture, but the children of Napa farm workers educated in the US are able to find relatively high wage nonfarm jobs ($9 to 10 hourly) in services related to Agri-Tourism. These nonfarm jobs are at various points on the job ladder, from maids to managers.

· The proximity of Napa to the Bay Area puts upward pressure on hourly wages as well as on housing costs, putting Napa workers and their families in a wage-housing cost squeeze. This squeeze is most apparent for the seasonal farm workers hired for the August-October harvest; some live in makeshift temporary housing.

During the discussions and field trip, three major themes emerged:

1. Napa has a small but very well known agricultural sector based on producing, processing, and selling wine directly to consumers. The production and direct sale of wine is the ultimate “value-added” agriculture, making Napa a place “where agriculture and culture blend.” Tourism is the major employer in the Napa area.

2. Napa’s farm work force is largely immigrant, but tends to be older, more skilled because of the need for careful pruning of high-value grapes and more likely to be represented by unions or enjoy wage and benefit packages influenced by union contracts.

3. A major difference between Napa and other farming areas arises in discussions of the future. Napa county has a much lower unemployment and welfare rates then the rest of the state, and has plans for additional tourist attractions based on wine that promise more nonfarm jobs for ex-farm workers and their children.

The next changing face seminar is tentatively scheduled for January 15-17, 2001 in the Imperial Valley; it will focus on border agriculture and commuter farm worker migration. Another changing face seminar will be held in Fall 2002 in Asilomar and will include analysis of 2000 census data in rural and agricultural areas, and a return visit to Watsonville. Those wishing to participate in these changing face conferences are invited to contact us at:

Immigration and Integration
Jeff Passel emphasized that California is different in immigration matters: the state has a higher percentage of immigrants than most other states, a higher percentage of Mexicans, a higher percentage of poor immigrants, and a higher percentage of unauthorized migrants. In rural and agricultural areas of California, the result is that poor and rural-origin Mexicans are becoming poor Californians.

Elias Lopez noted that demographic change due to immigration first appears among the young, since immigrants tend to be younger than US-born residents and to have higher fertility. In 1970, about 89 percent of the children in Napa county under age 5 were non-Hispanic white and 8 percent were Hispanic; in 2000, these figures were 55 and 40 percent, and Hispanics were a majority of the kindergarten pupils.

Many Hispanics who go to school in Napa do not graduate from high school. There were 1,100 high school graduates in 1999, 800 were non-Hispanic whites, and 40 percent completed the courses that fulfill UC/CSU admission requirements. There were 200 Hispanic high school graduates, and 15 percent fulfilled UC/CSU admission requirements.

Michael Fix highlighted the mismatch between the rapidly rising number of immigrant children and the slow growth of integration assistance. In Fall 2000, about 20 percent of US children under 18, and 50 percent of California children, were foreign-born, first-generation immigrants or children who were born in the US to at least one immigrant parent. Federal, state, or local resources to meet special immigrant student needs are rising much slower than the number of immigrant children, although e.g. Migrant Education received a significant funding boost in FY99.

In 1996, many legal immigrants were made ineligible for means-tested federal welfare assistance programs. It is clear that Congress has the power to treat non-US citizens differently, e.g. to make them ineligible for benefits even if they pay taxes, but there was a political backlash against the 1996 cuts, and the eligibility of especially children and elderly legal immigrants for welfare benefits was restored in 1997-98.

Many advocates have made restoration of welfare benefits for more immigrants, such as able-bodied adults—their top priority. Fix urged a closer look at the Earned Income Tax Credit, emphasizing that the EITC has become the major cash transfer program in the US, proving $30 billion in 1999 to low earners with families, so that a person earning $10,000 can receive an EITC payment of $4,000. Furthermore, the EITC tends to unite Republicans and Democrats in Congress, while arguments about welfare support for immigrants are often politically divisive.

Philip Martin emphasized that California's labor-intensive agriculture has been expanding, and the growth in on-farm employment has been in farm services. This means that more farm workers are being brought to farms by farm labor contractors and other intermediaries rather than being hired directly by farmers. As farm employment fragments, layers of entities intervene between farm workers and the primary beneficiary of the worker’s labor, opening the possibility for inefficiency and uncertainty.

The rise of FLCs has been associated with declining real farm wages, fewer fringe benefits, and the perception that there are widespread labor law and immigration violations, especially in the seasonal farm labor market. Enforcement sweeps tend to confirm this impression—investigators found widespread violations of minimum wage laws in the late 1990s in vineyards.

Bob Bach explored changing attitudes toward immigration, noting that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan’s comments in February 2000: "The benefits of bringing in people to do the work here, rather than doing the work elsewhere, to me, should be pretty self-evident" have changed immigration in the minds of many policy makers from a liability, the dominant theory in the early 1990s, to an asset in the late 1990s.

Bach called for a more inclusive concept of immigrant integration, noting that most immigrants found jobs in New York’s economy in 1905, but at wages that were too low to afford decent housing, and this frustration ultimately led to rent control when the immigrants and their descendents gained political power. He foresees more “pressure from below” for equitable growth that, if not satisfied, will produce what now seem like drastic solutions. Bach believes that equitable growth is faster and more sustainable in the long term, and notes that one priority area in which to experiment with equitable growth is on the US-Mexican border.

The discussion emphasized that immigrants tend to get involved in their US communities over issues that are very important to them, such as the 245(i) program that allowed illegally foreigners in the US when their immigrant visas become available to pay a fine and remain in the US, and around school crowding and similar issues in rural and agricultural communities. In some ways, adult education centers and assistance groups have become the “settlement houses” of the 21st century.

Napa Valley Communities
Ed Taylor presented an overview of immigration, employment, poverty and welfare trends in the Napa-Sonoma-Solano (NSS) region. Taylor emphasized that the NSS area seems to be California agriculture at its best in terms of farm labor. Wine grapes offer relatively stable and high-paying jobs, and there are many nonfarm jobs, including tourism, that are linked to wine production. As a result, per-capita incomes in NSS are much higher and poverty and welfare use lower than in other agricultural regions, including Fresno and Yuba counties.

The “vicious circle” of farm employment, immigration, poverty, and welfare that is evident elsewhere in California agriculture does not seem to apply to the NSS area. The wine-based economy, including tourism, draws in immigrants, but poverty and welfare use decreased during the 1980s and 1990s. Higher schooling attainment and proximity to a booming San Francisco Bay Area economy created opportunities that are not available in most rural communities. Nevertheless, high living costs, reflected in escalating housing prices, make the purchasing power of dollars earned in NSS lower than in other farm areas.

In contrast to Fresno and Yuba counties, decreasing welfare caseloads have been accompanied by employment growth in NSS. In most of rural California it appears that welfare reform’s time limits are pushing individuals into labor markets with few jobs, but the relatively dynamic NSS economy may be “pulling” people off of welfare. Nevertheless, the economically disadvantaged population in NSS has characteristics similar to those of other poor rural populations, i.e. most are single mothers with little schooling and few of the skills needed to get “quality” jobs paying more than welfare programs.

Sandra Nichols provided a “micro” or ground-level perspective on Mexican immigrants and transnational networks in the Napa valley. Nichols noted that there were three major types of Mexican immigrants in 123,000 resident Napa county:

· Some 2,500 often year-round workers who have settled in Napa county

· Perhaps 2,500 transnational or shuttle migrants who have homes in Mexico and whose only US employment is in Napa county, although some of these Mexicans who shuttle between homes in Mexico and jobs in Napa are in Napa 8 to 11 months a year

· Perhaps 1,000 to 2,000 follow-the-crop migrants who come to the Napa Valley for the September grape harvest, e.g. after harvesting pears in Lake county.

Nichols emphasizes that many of the Mexican immigrants in Napa are transnational migrants, persons attached to both Mexican communities and Napa. The strong links between Napa and west central Mexico have been fostered by hometown clubs, generally founded privately, but increasingly used by Mexican state governments to raise funds for economic development. For example, shuttle migrants employed by the Sutter Home winery in Napa contributed $60,000 to establish a sewing factor in El Timbinal, Guanajuato, with the state government providing training and technical assistance. A similar group maintains ties between Jerez, Zacatecas and Napa with a formal Napa-Jerez Sister City organization.

The most troubling social problem confronting Napa Valley concerns the Latino immigrant children. Second-generation Latinos tend to have low educational attainment, high drop-out rates, and some involvement in gangs. Latinos and the non-Latinos share the concerns about integrating second-generation immigrants, and Nichols believes that hometown associations can be a resource to address their social integration. Rather than being disadvantaged, marginalized, and powerless individuals, through hometown associations Latino immigrants act as members of distinct communities, with internal organization and leadership capacity.

The Napa Wine Business
The California wine business is growing rapidly, expecting a record crush of 3.5 million tons of wine grapes in 2000; Napa county is expected to produce about 100,000 tons or 3 percent of California grapes. California has 12,000 to 13,000 growers of wine grapes and 850 wineries that produced 2.4 billion bottles of wine with a wholesale value of $15 billion, or an average $6.25 a bottle. Many smaller wineries, those that sell less than 10,000 cases a year, sell most of their wine from their tasting rooms at prices of $60 to $84 a case ($5 to $7 a bottle).

Many of the small wineries are in the Napa Valley, which draws five million visitors a year. There are 600 wine grape growers in Napa county, and vineyard land sells for $50,000 to $75,000 an acre. Prices are lower in Sonoma county, about $40,000 an acre, and in the Central Coast, about $25,000 an acre, and lowest in the Central Valley, $10,000 to $15,000.

Sue Hayes noted that wine grape acreage is expanding rapidly in Sonoma county, but that grape growers are making little provision for seasonal farm workers. Wine grape production has become more labor intensive, with growers doing more replanting and removing leaves etc in summer. As a result of replanting and denser vineyards, yields have risen, to an average 7 tons an acre in Sonoma county, versus 3 tons an acre in Napa county. The higher yields encourage more mechanical harvesting, since machine harvesting costs do not rise with yield, while hand harvesting costs rise with yield.

Philip Martin reviewed employment and housing issues in Napa, emphasizing that farm worker employment rose in the 1990s while the number of beds available to house farm workers temporarily fell. In 2000, housing for seasonal harvest workers became a “crisis,” as some workers lived along the Napa river and others slept on the porch of the St Helena Catholic Church.

The difference between peak and trough employment on Napa county farms in 1998 was 2,400 directly hired workers and 1,300 agricultural service workers, meaning that 3,700 workers employed in September were not employed in December. Most of directly hired workers live in Napa eight to 10 months a year, and have apartments or houses in the city of Napa. The major housing issue revolves around the 1000+ workers who are in Napa county only for the harvest.

HUD's 40th percentile rent for a two-bedroom apartment in 2000 in the Napa-Vallejo-Fairfied area was $857, which is more than many harvest workers in the Napa area for only a few months are willing to pay. There is some public and private housing available for single male workers—there are 10 farm labor camps in Napa county with 302 beds available in private (135 beds) and public (152 beds) camps in 2000, including a 30-person tent camp opened at the Yountville Corporation Yard for 90 days. Most labor camps charge residents $10 a day for a place to sleep and meals, or about $300 a month.

In 2000, Napa county established a 14-member Farmworker Housing Oversight Committee to makes recommendations on farm worker housing to the Napa Valley Housing Authority. There are four major options to close the gap between the demand for and supply of temporary housing for migrant and seasonal farm workers in Napa:

· Mechanize more harvesting. If more grapes were picked mechanically, there would be less need for migrant harvest workers, and less need for additional housing for them. The argument against mechanization is that premium wines require hand-picked grapes.

· Build more temporary farm worker housing. The Calistoga Farmworker Center and other labor camps managed by CHDC for the Housing Authority are regarded as serving the very useful purpose of making temporary housing available. Workers pay $10 a day for room and meals, and grower and other contributions cover the $5 a day deficit.

The major problem with building more temporary housing is that land is very expensive, and a county ordinance requires a minimum 20 acres to construct temporary farm worker housing and 40 acres is required to construct year-round farm worker housing. Relaxing the 20/40-acre requirements is believed by some to open the door to turning Napa into another “Orange county.”

· Bus workers from lower-cost areas. Fairfield, Vacaville, and Vallejo, cities in Solano county, as well as Santa Rosa in Sonoma county, offer lower cost housing. Employers could arrange to rent housing for migrant workers in these nearby cities, and run buses or vans to bring workers into Napa for the harvest.

· Tent camps. Washington state employs about 16,000 workers to harvest cherries for 4-6 weeks in June-July, and faces the same issue of growers being reluctant to build housing that will be occupied for only a few weeks—there are not enough jobs in cherry-growing areas to encourage year-round settlement. Beginning in 1995, cherry growers were licensed by the state Department of Health to house workers in military-style tents, if employers also provided refrigerators, cooking facilities, hot and cold water and toilet facilities. The state of Washington spent $1.2 million to purchase 571-$2,100 tents that each house six workers on cots. Most of the tents are put on public land near e.g. little-used airports, with growers paying the state $15 a day per worker, and the worker paying $3 a day.

Farm work often involves repetitive motions that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders; farm workers have one of the highest injury rates among major occupations. John Miles, Jim Meyers and their colleagues have studied exactly what farm workers do, and then designed tools to minimize injuries. For example, they developed a curved hand grip so that nursery workers did not have to bend over and grip each can tightly to lift it, reducing back strains and injuries. In wine grapes, researchers experimented with air-powered and electric-powered pruners to reduce the repetitive motion injuries associated with manual pruning shears.

A major innovation affecting Napa farm workers involved reducing the size of the plastic tubs into which wine grapes are hand picked. The normal tub held 57 pounds of wine grapes, and workers had to push it along with their feet while picking grapes, and then lift it over their heads to dump the load of grapes into a gondola. The human spine seems to develop musculoskeletal problems when lifting more than 50 to 55 pounds, and the ergonomics lab developed a 46 pound picking tub that significantly reduced back pain over three years.

The researchers noted that agriculture often does not bear the full cost of work place injuries because farm work is a job, not a career, and many of the injuries are cumulative, so that it is hard to assign responsibility for the injury to a particular job or employer. If agriculture had to pay the full cost of work place injuries, it is likely that far more would be done to restructure farm jobs to limit work place injuries.

NAWS at 10
The National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) was begun in 1989 to help DOL to fulfill its obligations under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 to estimate the man-days of labor available to Seasonal Agricultural Services (most of US crop agriculture). The NAWS interviews crop workers employed on farms three times a year to determine their wages and working conditions as well as to obtain information about their work history, family members, and income and assets.

The NAWS has become the most widely cited source of data on the characteristics of farm workers, with the most widely cited data items being: (1) the rising percentage of unauthorized crop workers—52 percent in 1996-98 and (2) the fact that wages and working conditions for crop workers did not improve in the 1990s. Other federal agencies, including NIOSH and the MEP, have provided funds to add supplemental questions to the NAWS.

NAWS data have not been accessible to and analyzed by researchers familiar with farm production and other farm labor data sources. The purpose of the NAWS at 10 seminar held in October 2000 at UCD was to analyze NAWS data in the context of other data sources. Three themes dominated the discussion:

· NAWS data are very useful, but (1) reports using NAWS data must be careful to specify exactly the group of persons employed on farms to whom the data apply[1]; (2) NAWS needs to gather and include more data on the farms on which workers are interviewed; and (3) comparisons between NAWS and other data would be expedited if NAWS used as many questions as possible and reported to the extent feasible using e.g. the CPS or OES surveys as models.

· NAWS data are most useful at the national level; the NAWS cannot be relied on to make estimates of e.g. regional labor supply and demand, especially on year-to-year basis.

· The sampling methods used to determine the number of interviews in each area and the weights used to expand sample data to the NAWS-covered population of farm workers are not clear to many researchers, with the post-sampling weight procedure causing the most confusion because it assumes that the data obtained can be weighted to reflect “normal” conditions.

The consensus was that meetings such as this seminar are mutually beneficial to those who collect and use NAWS data as well as the researchers, and should be continued.

NAWS Evolution
The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 included a Replenishment Agricultural Worker (RAW) program that allowed the employment of legal foreign workers outside the H-2A program in the event of farm labor shortages. The RAW program was included in IRCA at the behest of especially California farmers, who feared that employer sanctions would make it impossible to employ unauthorized foreign workers, that newly legalized Special Agricultural Workers (SAWs) would leave the farm work force for nonfarm jobs, and that the revised H-2A program was too “inflexible” to obtain legal farm workers for perishable crop agriculture.

The RAW program aimed to provide a floating pool of legal guest workers in the event of labor shortages. The number of RAWs was to be determined under a formula spilling over 9 pages of IRCA; the annual limit on admissions was the lesser of the Absolute Ceiling and Shortage Calculation:

Annual RAW Admissions Absolute Ceiling

1. 95 percent of (Approved SAWs - SAWs doing at least 15 days of SAS work ± change in H‑2A workers)

The annual number of RAW visas is the lesser smaller of:

Shortage Calculation

2. Man-days Needed – Man-days Available

Average Man-days worked

The absolute ceiling or the maximum number of RAWs to be admitted to the US in FY90, for example, was 95 percent of the number of SAWs, minus the number of SAWs who did at least 15 days of work in Seasonal Agricultural Services (SAS) in FY 1989, and plus or minus the change in the number of H-2A workers in SAS crops admitted in FY89 versus FY88. There were 1.2 million SAWs, so the absolute ceiling on RAW admissions for FY90 was 1.1 million minus 350,000 SAWs who did at least 15 days of SAS work in FY89, and minus the 3,000 increase in the number of H-2A workers between FY88 and FY89 (certifications rose from 23,700 to 26,600), or 747,000.

The shortage calculation required three data elements and collaboration among three agencies:

· USDA estimated the demand or need for labor in SAS,

· DOL determined the supply or availability of labor to SAS, and

· farm employers reported to the Census the names, A-numbers, and SAS days worked of SAWs.

For example, if USDA determined that there were 180 million man days worked in SAS in FY89 and that no significant changes were expected in this demand or need number for FY90, and if DOL determined that 20 percent of the SAS mandays were lost annually because of exiting workers and that no new domestic workers would be available to work in SAS,[2] then the RAW shortage number would be 20 percent of 180 million or 36 million mandays. This shortage number was to be converted into RAW visas or workers on the basis of Bureau of the Census analysis of the ESA-92 forms on which farmers reported the days (four hours or more) worked by SAWs. SAWs were expected to average 90 days of farm work, so 36 million divided by 90 gives a shortage number of 400,000.

Shortage calculations in the early 1990s found few exits of SAW workers, and the RAW program did not admit any additional foreign farm workers before expiring in 1993.

DOL had the responsibility to determine the loss of mandays to SAS agriculture caused by retirements and the exit of SAS workers, and the additional mandays of labor available to SAS agriculture if farm employers improved wages, working conditions, and recruitment efforts. Thus, DOL was concerned with the work of three groups:

· exiting workers who did, e.g., SAS work in FY88 but not FY89

· entrants who did not do SAS work in FY88 but did SAS work in FY89

· potential SAS workers who would do SAS work in FY90 if farm employers improved wages, working conditions, or recruitment methods

DOL initially planned to attach questions to the Current Population Survey to obtain this days of work information, but later decided to launch a new survey, and contracted with Aguirre International to develop the sampling methodology and conduct the worker interviews. The sampling methodology involved ranking U.S. counties by their total crop labor expenditures in the 1982 COA, grouping the counties into crop reporting districts (CRDs), stratifying these CRDs by their labor expenditures, and then selecting sample counties or CRDs from, e.g., high, medium, and low farm labor expenditure strata. The selected CRDs included 160 to 200 counties across the United States, and the quarterly interviews were conducted in 60 counties in 34 sites in 25 states. Employer lists were developed for each multi-county site, and employers were asked to permit their workers to be interviewed.

Worker Characteristics: 1996-98
USDA and the Census stopped collecting data for the RAW program in 1993, when the program expired, but the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) was revised and continued to generate more complete information on the demographic and employment characteristics of farm workers. The NAWS has gone through several iterations, and currently interviews approximately 4,000 workers per year in three waves in almost 100 counties across the US.[3]

The NAWS was never intended to estimate the number or distribution of farm workers across states and counties. However, CPS data analyzed by USDA in the Hired Farm Work Force reports during the 1980s and 1990s suggested that the number of individuals employed for wages on US farms sometime during a year was 2.5 million. About 72 percent, or 1.8 million of these workers were employed on crop farms, so that each one percent change in NAWS data is thought to refer to about 18,000 crop workers.[4]

The most recent NAWS report for 1997-98 is based on interviews with 4,199 workers between October 1, 1996 and September 30, 1998 in 85 counties across the US. The six-chapter report follows the outline of previous NAWS reports: sections one through three cover farm worker characteristics; sections four and five cover earnings and jobs; and section six focuses on participation in US welfare programs.

The 1996-98 NAWS found that 81 percent of the workers interviewed were born abroad, including 77 percent born in Mexico. Among the 19 percent US-born workers, half were Hispanics. If the NAWS describes 1.8 million persons who worked for wages on US crop farms, then 1.4 million hired crop workers were born in Mexico and 340,000 were born in the US. About 48 percent of the workers interviewed were authorized to work in the US; 52 percent were not. The legal workers were divided almost equally between US citizens (22 percent) and legal immigrants (24 percent).

In 1987-88, about 1.2 million unauthorized foreigners were legalized under the Special Agricultural Worker (SAW) program; they were supposed to have done at least 90 days of farm work in 1985-86. According to most studies, at least half of the foreigners who received SAW status did not do this requisite farm work. In 1989-90, the NAWS found that about 31 percent of crop workers interviewed were SAWs, suggesting that 558,000 SAWs were employed in agriculture. By 1996-98, the number of SAWs was down to 16 percent, or 285,000. The movement of SAWs out of agriculture almost exactly matches the increase in unauthorized farm workers since the late 1980s.

Farm workers are unlike other US workers. In 1998, about 54 percent of US workers were male, and 39 percent were under 35 years of age. The NAWS found that more men and younger workers--80 percent of crop workers were men, and 67 percent were under 35. Despite their youth, about 52 percent of crop workers were married, and half of them had children. Almost half of the married farm workers left their families in Mexico while doing US farm work; other farm workers left their families in South Texas, for example, while they migrated north to Michigan to do farm work.

About 84 percent of farm workers speak Spanish and 12 percent speak English. About 85 percent of farm workers, compared to 11 percent of all US workers, have not completed high school. The median years of schooling for farm workers was six, and most farm workers completed their education in Mexico. Many farm workers are eligible to participate in US adult education courses, and 22 percent did, usually attending GED or English classes, but less than five percent of foreign-born farm workers reported that they could read or speak English well.

The 4,199 workers interviewed in 1997-98 held a total 7,697 farm jobs. About 60 percent of those interviewed had only one job, and seven percent had four or more jobs, suggesting that relatively few workers fit the stereotype of a migrant who follows the ripening crops from south to north, working on many farms.

In the nonfarm labor market, 143.2 million workers had at least one job in 1997, and 15.6 million experienced unemployment— annual average employment was 129.6 million, and annual average unemployment was 6.7 million. An average eight million US workers held two or more jobs simultaneously in 1998—about 4.5 million had one full-time and one part-time job. For more information:

NAWS defined a migrant as a worker who moved 75 miles or more from his usual residence to find a US farm job; an overnight stay away from home was not required to be considered a migrant in NAWS data analysis. The largest group of crop workers interviewed, 44 percent (792,000) were not migrants. Another 39 percent (702,000) were shuttle migrants— their usual homes were in generally in Mexico, and they traveled more than 75 miles from their homes to their US farm jobs.[5] However, only 17 percent (306,000) of the workers interviewed were stereotypical follow-the-crop migrants who have one farm job and then travel at least 75 miles for another farm job.

Labor Market Operation
Farm labor markets deal with the same three essential functions of all labor markets-- recruitment, motivation and retention, but in unique ways. Recruitment is mostly by word of mouth— 70 percent of workers found their current job through a friend, relative, or work mate; 25 percent applied on their own, and one percent used the Employment Service.

Workers averaged $5.93 an hour for 38 hours a week in 1996-98, for weekly earnings of $225—average weekly earnings for all private sector workers were $442 in 1998 (the federal minimum wage rose from $4.25 to $4.75 on October 1, 1996 and to $5.15 on September 1, 1997). The quarterly USDA publication, Farm Labor, reports higher average hourly earnings and more hours worked— an average $6.98 an hour for field and livestock workers in 1998, and 40 hours a week. About 77 percent of the 7,697 farm jobs in the NAWS paid hourly wages and 20 percent paid piece rate wages; piece rates were most common in harvesting jobs.

Farm workers interviewed in the NAWS averaged 24.4 weeks of farm work, for farm earnings of $5,500 in 1996-98. They also averaged 4.6 weeks of nonfarm work, for nonfarm earnings of about $1,000. Farm workers averaged 10 weeks unemployed in the US and 12 weeks outside the US. Weeks of farm and nonfarm work in the US have been declining, while weeks abroad have been increasing, probably reflecting the rising share of farm workers who are newcomers to the US. Newcomers are workers who, at the time of being interviewed, had entered the US for the first time in the previous two years.

Unemployment is pervasive, even during the summer months. If the status of workers is recorded on a month-by-month basis, the percentage of workers doing farm work peaks in the summer months at 55 to 60 percent, but the unemployment rate is at least 15 percent. This means that there is one unemployed farm worker for every three or four at work. During the winter months, the percentage of workers doing farm work ranges between 35 and 40 percent, and the percentage of unemployed workers is 20 to 23 percent, which means that there is one unemployed worker for every two farm workers at work. About one-third of farm workers are outside the US in the winter months.

Farm work is often described as a job, not a career. The crop workers interviewed had an average eight years of US farm work experience. This eight year average may be misleading, since the half of the farm workers who were authorized had an average of 13 years of US farm work experience, and the half who were unauthorized had an average of four years of US farm work experience, meaning that workers were concentrated at the two extremes of the experience spectrum.

About half of the workers interviewed said that they intended to remain farm workers as long as possible; the other half intended to exit the farm work force within five years, which would imply that half of the crop workers will have to be replaced by 2003. About 60 percent of farm workers said they had relatives or friends with nonfarm US jobs, and 35 percent thought they could get a nonfarm US job within one month.

Many workers get out of agriculture as they get older. They find farm work too difficult, learn about nonfarm alternatives, or find fewer weeks of farm work available. The average weeks of farm work for US-born farm workers fell from 24 in 1990-92 to 22 in 1996-98, while the average weeks of unemployment rose from 15 to 19. Foreign-born farm workers saw their weeks of farm work fall from 28 to 25; they reported that they spent 15 weeks out of the US in the late 1990s, versus 10 weeks outside the US in the early 1990s, although this increase in weeks outside the US might reflect more newcomers to the farm work force—they may have been outside the US until they arrived and were interviewed doing farm work.

Employers and Benefits
The NAWS selects workers to be interviewed on the basis of employer UI-tax records and other sources-- Aguirre has two full time positions dedicated to improving and adding to lists of farm employers. About 80 percent of the workers interviewed were employed directly by growers --a grower may use a bilingual foreman to recruit and supervise workers, but the workers are on the grower's payroll for UI-tax reporting purposes. About 33 percent of workers were employed in fruits and nuts, 28 percent in vegetables, and 14 percent in horticultural specialties— these FVH crops employed 75 percent of the workers.

Farm employers must provide some benefits to workers— Social Security, unemployment insurance and worker's compensation— and may provide additional benefits, including pensions, health insurance and vacation pay. Many farm workers interviewed by the NAWS did not think that they were covered by mandatory benefits and few received voluntary benefits.

For example, about 60 percent of the workers interviewed said that they could not receive UI benefits even if unemployed. This result may be explained by the fact that, in many states, only workers employed on the largest farms must be covered by UI, and unauthorized workers are not eligible for benefits, even if their employers pay UI taxes on their wages. Workers compensation pays for medical costs associated with work-place injuries and provides payments to workers who cannot work as a result of work-place injuries. About half of the states do not require farmers to provide workers compensation coverage for farm workers, and two-thirds of farm workers said that they were not covered.

The most common voluntary benefit provided to farm workers was housing— about 20 percent of crop workers received free housing from their employers. About five percent of crop workers received health insurance for off-the-job injuries to themselves or their families and 10 percent received vacation pay.

Most farm workers are required to be provided with necessary work equipment at no cost, toilet facilities and drinking water. About 70 percent of workers said that they were provided with work equipment, and almost all were provided with toilets and drinking water.

In the nonfarm private sector, the total cost of employing workers was $19 an hour in March 1999, including $13.87 an hour in wages and salaries (73 percent) and $5.13 an hour in benefits (27 percent). This $5.13 included $1.65 an hour (9 percent of total pay) for legally required payments for social security, unemployment insurance and workers' compensation, followed by 18 percent for voluntary fringe benefits: $1.20 for paid leave, including vacation and holiday pay, $1.13 for health and other insurance, and $1.12 an hour for retirement benefits supplemental pay

Income and Assets
NAWS obtains income data by range. Half of farm workers had 1997 incomes of less than $7,500, and half of farm worker families had incomes of less than $10,000, which means that most individuals and families were below the poverty line— $8,350 for an individual in 1997, and $12,800 for a family of three. About 20 percent of farm workers said that they or someone in their family received UI benefits within the past two years. Since 50 percent of farm workers are unauthorized, and 14 percent work year-round, this suggests that half of the 36 percent who are eligible for UI benefits received them.

About 17 percent of farm workers received benefits through means-tested programs. Unauthorized workers are generally not eligible for such programs, although their US-born and US-citizen children may be eligible. The NAWS reports that about one-third of the legally authorized farm workers received means-tested benefits-- the three most common programs were Medicaid (Medi-Cal), Food Stamps, and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. Far fewer farm workers received cash payments under AFDC/TANF or public housing assistance.

The increasing presence of unauthorized workers also shows up in home buying and assets. The percentage of farm workers who owned or were buying a US home dropped—in 1994-95, about one-third owned or were buying, compared to 14 percent in 1997-98. The percentage who owned a vehicle in the US dropped from 49 to 44 percent.

NAWS Trends: 1989-1998
NAWS worker data have been grouped in several ways for analysis. One common method of examining trends over time in NAWS data is to combine the data for two fiscal years, so that the number of workers in each two year period is e.g. FY89-90 is 4,200 to 4,700.

Using such a categorization, there are five two-year periods between FY89-90 and FY97-98, and they show little change in most farm worker characteristics, e.g., the median age of workers interviewed was 28 to 30 over the 1990s while the median age at which workers interviewed first entered the US was 19 to 20. However, the percentage of foreign-born workers rose from about 60 to 80 percent over the 1990s and, as exiting US-born workers were replaced by newly arrived immigrants, the median years of US farm work experience fell from 8 to 5 years.

The NAWS found an increasingly solo male and recently arrived farm work force in the 1990s—the percentage of workers interviewed who entered the US for the first time during the previous two years rose from 5 to 30 percent. Many of the newcomers were unauthorized, which helped to push the unauthorized share of the labor force from 12 to 52 percent.

The farm labor market is like a revolving door that newly arrived immigrant workers enter, and then leave within 5 to 10 years to be replaced by another fresh immigrant. The door may be turning faster in the 1990s because of less work and slowly rising farm wages—median weeks of farm work fell from 30 to 23 over the 1990s. Median wages rose $1 an hour in the 1990s—from $4.50 to $5.50 (22 percent); the federal minimum wage rose from $3.35 in 1989 to $5.15 in 1998 (63 percent).

NAWS and Regions: 1993-98
There were several presentations on the health status of farm workers that emphasized that the NAWS is a pioneering survey for examining low-wage and immigrant workers. Don Villarejo reported on preliminary results of a health survey that began with a comprehensive census in 7 communities to find all sleeping places, and then interviews with “households” to determine who did farm work during the previous 12 months. Some 965 persons were interviewed, and data were obtained on about 3000 persons in their households. The demographic characteristics of the workers interviewed were similar to those of the NAWS for California, viz., their median age was 32 (versus 30) and 33 percent were women (versus 18 percent).

The major conclusion was that most farm workers do not have health insurance and do not see doctors or dentists regularly: 69 percent did not have health insurance, and 50 percent had not been to a US doctor or dentist during the previous 12 months.

Rick Mines looked at the health status of farm workers who returned to Mexico, and found that they often took medicine without a proper diagnosis of their ailment, and that there were sometimes conflicts between US and Mexican diagnoses and prescriptions. Sherry Baron emphasized that two-thirds of farm workers interviewed had some pesticide training in the previous 12 months, and that 90 percent had pesticide training in the previous 5 years. However, relatively few wore the gloves that might protect them from pesticides.

Bob Emerson examined NAWS and other data for Florida and the southeastern states, noting that Florida accounted for 59 percent of crop labor expenditures in the COA, followed by 12 percent for Georgia. Emerson concluded that the NAWS undersampled workers employed in fruits, and oversampled those employed in vegetables and field crops. He also emphasized the high variance in crop worked from year-to-year, e.g. 25 percent of those interviewed in the southeast in 1995 were in fruits and nuts, but only 3 percent in 1994.

If farm worker characteristics are linked to the type of farm on which a worker is employed, then the fact that half of the workers interviewed in the southeast between 1993 and 1998 were employed on vegetable farms could influence the NAWS characteristics data for the entire region. Emerson urged consideration of a sampling strategy that would increase the number of employers visited to interview workers, and decrease the number of workers interviewed on each farm.

Dawn Thilmany emphasized that Washington dominates farm worker employment in the mountain region, and that the NAWS sampled workers in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, an isolated area with less than 10 percent of the Colorado’s farm production that may not be typical of the state. Thilmany urged consideration of a typology of farm workers that would group them by their movement between farm and nonfarm jobs.

Jill Findeis reported that in the northeastern states, nursery production has been increasing while fruit production decreases. Since the work force in the northeast is changing rapidly, the NAWS may report a high percentage of workers who spent most of the year abroad, implying they are shuttle migrants when they in fact have moved to the US to stay, but since they did so only recently, they appear to be shuttles who spend many weeks outside the US.

Hans Johnson reported that the crop workers in the CPS have characteristics similar to NAWS. In an effort to understand whether Gatekeeper is deterring the entry of unauthorized aliens, Johnson examined a variety of data on labor markets in which newly arrived and unauthorized workers are likely to find jobs, including in agriculture. Johnson found that smuggling fees have increased, but the availability of US jobs has not yet had appreciable deterrence effects on young men headed for the US.

NAWS in the 21st Century
There were many comparisons between the NAWS’ sampling strategy—probability proportional to size, meaning that the largest farm employers are most likely to be in the sample—and the sampling strategies used in the CPS (household) and for Farm Labor (employer-based). It was emphasized that many farm employers are reluctant to report employment and wage information, although it is far cheaper to obtain wage and related data from employers than from workers. The California monthly survey used to generate Farm Labor data sends out 5,000 questionnaires during the first month of the quarter, and obtains 25 percent usable responses by the first cut off used to generate Farm Labor data, and 50 percent usable responses by the time the final data are tabulated for the California Agricultural Bulletin; in the nonfarm sector, by contrast, there are 40 and 75 percent response rates from employers.

NAWS is becoming a valuable tool for Migrant and Seasonal Farm Worker (MSFW) programs that provide services to farm workers and their children. The challenge for the 21st century is to make NAWS as essential to farm employers, labor law agencies, and researchers who are more concerned about trends and patterns in farm production, employment and wages, and competitiveness.

Changing Face Agenda
Immigration and the Changing Face of Rural California

Focus on the Napa Valley

Thursday-Friday, October 5-6, 2000

Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center, UCD campus (tel 530-752-8111)

The purpose of this Changing Face workshop is to assess the prospects for migrants and their children who arrived in the Napa and Sonoma counties since 1990 to fill agricultural and farm-related jobs, and to examine the effects of 1996 immigration and welfare reforms on migration flows and integration prospects.

Participation is by invitation only, and there is a $125 registration fee, which includes meals and the field trip.

If you would like to participate, please contact Philip Martin at: The agenda and papers will be posted at: //

Thursday, October 5, 2000. Buehler Alumni Center, AGR Room

8-9AM Continental breakfast

9AM Welcome and overview. Philip Martin, UC-Davis and Michael Fix, Urban Institute

9:15AM Immigration Patterns in the US and the Bay Area

Jeff Passel, Urban Institute

Elias Lopez, California Children and Families Commission

10:15AM Break

10:30AM Immigrant Integration Policies, Michael Fix, Urban Institute

Immigration, Welfare and Farm Labor, Philip Martin, UCD

11:00AM Break

11:15AM Immigration and Integration: Challenges and Opportunities, Bob Bach, Rockefeller Foundation

12:30PM Lunch

1:15PM Community Studies, Chair, Michael Fix, Urban Institute

Overview, Ed Taylor, UCD

Transnational Communities in the Napa Valley, Sandra Nichols, UCB

Discussant: Jim Grieshop, UCD

3PM Break

3:15PM Commodity Studies. Chair, Ed Taylor, UCD

Napa: Wine, Farm Workers and Housing, Philip Martin, UCD

Labor and Vineyards, Sue Hayes, Sonoma State

Discussant: Bert Mason, ALRB

4:15PM Ergonomics and Farm Mechanization, John Miles, Jim Meyers, UCD Agricultural Ergonomics Research Center. Room 1338 Bainer Hall. Slide show and lab tour.

7PM Drinks and BBQ Dinner outside Buehler

7:45PM Farm labor: A Pictorial History. Richard Steven Street, Stanford

Friday, October 6, 2000, Field Trip to the Napa Valley

8AM Depart for wine grape harvesting, hand and machine

11:30AM Lunch with community leaders at Calistoga Farmworkers Center, 3996 No. St. Helena Hwy, Judith Tiller and Angel Calderon, tel 707-942-9279 (on the right, off Hwy 29 just past Larkmead)

Mark van Gorder, Jack Neal & Son, Inc., St. Helena

Pat Garvey, Flora Springs Winery

Kathryn Winter, Napa county supervisor

Fr. John Brenkle, St. Helena Catholic Church

Ruben Oropeza, Napa county environmental health supervisor

Peter Drier, Napa Valley Housing Authority

1:30PM Depart for Calistoga High School, 1608 Lake St, Calistoga, Karmen Loftis, tel (707) 942-6046

3:45PM Robert Mondavi, 7801 St Helena Hwy, Robin Nicola, tel 707-226-1395

5PM St. Supery, 8440 St. Helena Highway, Chris Parker, tel 707-963-4507

6PM Return to Davis

8PM Dinner at Hunan, 508-2nd St (2nd and D), tel 530-753-5174

NAWS at 10 Agenda

Saturday, October 7, 2000

The NAWS at 10: A Research Seminar

IGA Conference Room, Shields Library, UCD Campus

The purpose of this seminar is to assess the usefulness of NAWS and other farm labor data for understanding changes in the farm labor market in the 1990s, and to determine the combination of data that is most useful for understanding farm labor in the 21st century. The seminar will include papers that examine NAWS and farm production data as well as health and enforcement data. If you would like to participate, please contact Philip Martin at:

The papers will be posted by September 25, 2000 at: //

Saturday, October 7, 2000

8-9AM Continental breakfast

9AM The NAWS: an overview of the data and trends: 1989-98, Daniel Carroll, DOL and Susan Gabbard, Aguirre International

9:30AM Changes in US and midwestern farm labor markets—NAWS and USDA Data, Wally Huffman, Iowa State

10AM Discussion

10:15AM Break

10:30AM Changes in the US farm labor market—H-2As and FLCs, Jack Runyan, USDA

11AM Changes in the California Farm Labor Market, Ed Taylor and Philip Martin, UCD

11:30AM Farm Worker Health Issues: the Cross-Sectional Health Survey, Don Villarejo, David Lighthall, Rick Mines, CIRS and Sherry Baron, California Department of Health

12:30PM Lunch, Rick Mines, CIRS, The Evolution of NAWS

1:30PM Changes in the Florida Farm Labor, Bob Emerson, U of Florida

2PM Changes in the Mountain States and Pacific Northwest, Dawn Thilmany, Colorado State University

2:30PM Discussion

2:45PM Break

3PM Changes in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States, Jill Findeis and Janelle Larson, Penn State

3:30PM Using NAWS to Examine Enforcement and Other Issues, Belinda Reyes and Hans Johnson, CA PPIC

4PM Discussion

4:15PM Break

4:30PM The NAWS in the 21st Century, Don Villarejo, Rick Mines, Philip Martin

5PM Adjourn

7PM Dinner at Sudwerk, 2001-2nd St, Davis, tel 530-758-8700


[1] The NAWS does not include non-SAS workers, self-employed workers and members of a farmer’s family, and H-2A and clerical workers employed on farms.

[2] DOL in fact estimated that 4.7 percent of the SAS mandays available in FY 1989 would not be available in FY 1990 based on exits from the farm work force between FY88 and FY89, and that the days worked by new entrants and continuing farm workers increased by 14.4 percent, so that the days available to SAS agriculture in FY90 would increase by 9.7 percent.

[3] In order to generate information for NIOSH and the President’s Child Labor Initiative, the NAWS was expanded from 2500 to 4000 interviews a year to include 500 interviews with farm workers aged 14 to 17.

[4] The 72 percent share of workers employed on crop farms was derived by dividing labor expenditures in the 1997 Census of Agriculture by average hourly earnings of field and livestock workers from the USDA-NASS Farm Labor survey to get hours of farm work done on crop farms— 1.9 billion— and on livestock farms —750 million. About 72 percent of the 2.6 million total hours worked were on crop farms in 1997.

[5] NAWS defined shuttle migrants as persons who spent at least 28 days a year outside the US, so that a worker who was interviewed soon after arrival in the US could be considered a shuttle migrant even if the move to the US was permanent. The home base for 88 percent of shuttle migrants and 43 percent of the follow-the-crop migrants is Mexico, usually rural areas of Mexico.