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Rural Migration Blog

Fewer and Larger Farms Produce Most farm Output

March 29, 2018

The US has a stable 2.1 million farms, defined as places that sell $1,000 worth of farm commodities a year. However, most farm commodities are produced by less than 75,000 farms, under four percent of the total. With most farm output from a relative handful of large farms amidst millions of hobby and retirement farms, averages can be misleading as an indicator of US agriculture.

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Mexican Fruit and Vegetable Exports and Farm Labor

March 29, 2018

About half of US fresh fruit (53 percent in 2017) and a quarter of US fresh vegetables (31 percent in 2017) are imported. Mexico supplied 48 percent of the imported fresh fruit and 68 percent of the imported fresh vegetables in 2017. The US imported $11.6 billion worth of fresh produce from Mexico in 2017; 53 percent was fruit and 47 percent was vegetables.

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Governments React to Global Compact Proposal

March 29, 2018

The UN General Assembly in September 2016 proposed a Global Compact for "safe, orderly, and regular" Migration. The GCM aims to commit world leaders to “common principles” and “action items” to strengthen the global governance of migration and to promote the “positive contributions” of migrants.

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California: AB 450 versus ICE

March 29, 2018

California’s Immigrant Worker Protection Act (AB 450), which went into effect January 1, 2018, requires employers to demand warrants from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents before allowing them to inspect I-9 forms, to notify their employees of upcoming ICE audits, and inform employees of the outcomes of ICE audits. Employers can be fined $2,000 to $5,000 for the first violation, and $5,000 to $10,000 for each additional violation of AB 450.

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The Changing US Workforce

March 29, 2018

The US workforce is older, more diverse, and more educated than ever before. In 1950, the average age of US workers was almost 38, 73 percent of workers were male and 90 percent were white, and 42 percent had completed high school. In 2015, the average age of US workers was almost 44, 53 percent were male and 75 percent were white, and over 93 percent had completed high school.

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Senate fails to approve migration bills

February 21, 2018

The US government shut down January 20, 2018 for three days when Senate Democrats refused to support a short-term budget bill without protections for unauthorized foreigners who were brought to the US before the age of 16. The government reopened after Republicans agreed to allow a vote on legislation to protect "Dreamers," as they were called in bills introduced in 2001.

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ICE Promises more I-9 Audits

February 21, 2018

President Trump's proposed budget for FY19 includes $47.5 billion for DHS for "strengthening border security, ensuring enforcement of immigration laws, and reforming the legal immigration system." Trump proposed $571 million to hire 2,000 additional Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officiers and $132 million for E-Verify; Trump called on Congress to require all employers to use E-Verify to check new hires.

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GCM Zero Draft: From Guest Workers to Immigrants

February 21, 2018

The UN General Assembly in September 2016 proposed a Global Compact for "safe, orderly, and regular" Migration. The goal is to commit world leaders who sign the GCM in December 2018 to "common principles" and "action items" to strengthen the global governance of migration and to promote the "positive contributions" of migrants.

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California Supreme Court Upholds MMC

February 21, 2018

The state's largest peach grower, Gerawan Farms, has been embroiled in a dispute with the United Farm Workers since the early 1990s, and unsuccessfully challenged the state's 2002 Mandatory Mediation and Conciliation (MMC) law. The California Supreme Court in November 2017 held that a union remains certified to represent farm workers until that union is decertified lawfully by current workers.

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Will farmers support legalizing aging farm workers?

February 21, 2018

The Agricultural Job Opportunity Benefits and Security Act (AgJOBS) was negotiated in Fall 2000 by worker and grower advocates. AgJOBS would have legalized most unauthorized farm workers, required them to continue to do farm work for three to five years to earn an immigrant visa, and made it easier for farmers to hire legal guest workers to replace legalized farm workers who found nonfarm jobs.

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SB 54: California Values Act

January 30, 2018

California had about 2.4 million unauthorized foreigners in 2015, down from a peak 2.7 million in 2007 and up from 1.5 million in 1990. Unauthorized foreigners have been spreading out to other states, and California's share has been falling. California had 21 percent of the 11.1 million unauthorized foreigners the US in 2015, down from 43 percent of 3.5 million in 1990.

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Temp Firms and Occupational Sorting

January 30, 2018

Five of the world's largest private employers are outsourcing firms that provide workers and/or services to other firms, led by Ranstad, a Dutch temp agency with 660,000 workers. UK-based G4S and Compass Group each have about 560,000 employees, and US-based Accenture and Danish-based ISS AS each have about 430,000 employees. Walmart is the world's largest employer, with 2.3 million workers in 2017.

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UN: 258 million international migrants in 2017

January 30, 2018

The UN reported 258 million international migrants in 2017, so that 3.4 percent of the world's people lived in another country at least a year. The number of international migrants rose 10 million from 248 million in 2015, and is up 50 percent from 173 million in 2000. Almost 75 percent of international migrants are of prime working age, 20-64 years old, compared with 54 percent of the world's people. Men were 52 percent of the migrant stock in 2017 and women 48 percent.

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Migrants in Developing Countries

January 30, 2018

The OECD collaborated with the ILO to examine the impacts of labor migration in ten developing countries, from Argentina to Thailand. The overall conclusion is that migrant workers have small positive impacts on the labor markets, economic growth prospects, and public finances of their host countries.

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UNSG: Making Migration Work for All

January 30, 2018

The UN Secretary General released a report in December 2017 that laid out four "considerations" to guide governments negotiating a Global Compact for "safe, orderly, and regular" Migration. The GCM, to be signed by governments in Fall 2018, should maximize migration's benefits, increase labor migration, reduce illegal migration and protect migrant rights, and ensure that people migrate out of choice rather than necessity.

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Job or Visa Portability for Agricultural Guest Workers

December 21, 2017

Most guest worker programs are employer-led and contractual, meaning that employers request government certification to employ foreign workers who are tied by contract to a particular job. Contracts assure employers that they will have workers, and provide work and wage guarantees for workers.

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The Race in the Fields: Imports, Machines, and Migrants

December 21, 2017

The slowdown in unauthorized Mexico-US migration has set off a race in US fields between rising imports, more machines, and foreign guest workers. Trade policy, including NAFTA re-negotiations, and immigration policy, including more enforcement and new or revised guest worker programs, will determine which strategy dominates.

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The Iron Triangle and a piece rate-productivity standards database

December 21, 2017

Two major wage systems are used to pay hired farm workers: hourly wages and piece rates (some livestock and year-round workers are salaried). Most hired farm workers are paid weekly, and their earnings are the higher of the federal, state, or local minimum wage, the hourly wage, or their piece-rate earnings. Piece rate earnings are the product of the rate per unit of work times the number of units, such as $20 a bin for picking apples times five bins in an eight-hour day yielding $100 in daily earnings or $12.50 an hour.

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FTE Employment in EU-27 Agriculture is 10 million; The 2.3 million hired workers include many immigrants

December 21, 2017

The EU had 12 million farms in 2010 that employed 25 million workers, including farmers and spouses who work part time on farms. There are 10 million full-time equivalent jobs or annual work units on EU farms, and 2.3 million of these AWUs involve hired workers. Note that there was less than one full-time operator or hired worker per farm.

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Crop support services are a rising share of farm employment

December 21, 2017

US agriculture employs an average 1.3 million farm workers, according to reports by farmers when paying Unemployment Insurance (UI) taxes on the wages of their hired workers. Federal law has since 1978 required farms employing 10 or more workers for 20 weeks in a year, or paying $20,000 in wages in a quarter, to register and pay UI taxes on their employees’ wages.

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Big 5 ag sectors pay most farm wages, led by crop support services

November 27, 2017

The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) collects employment and earnings data on workers covered by Unemployment Insurance, which means practically all farm workers in states such as California and Washington and 81 percent of US farm workers. QCEW data on farm workers are available by detailed commodity, and are released soon after employers pay UI taxes on their workers’ wages.

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Farm wage and salary jobs expected to be stable at 1.5 million; Hired workers are two thirds of average employment in agriculture

November 27, 2017

DOL released labor force projections for 2016-26 that forecast the US labor force expanding by a million a year, from 159 million in 2016 to 170 million in 2026. About 61 percent of the 278 million US residents 16 and older are expected to be employed or looking for work in 2026, down from the peak labor force participation rate of 67 percent in the late 1990s. The median age of workers, now 42, is projected to rise slightly.

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US Fruit and Vegetable Imports and Farm Workers

November 27, 2017

The US has exported more farm commodities than it imported since 1960. The agricultural trade surplus is expected to be $24 billion in 2017, down from over $40 billion in 2011 and 2014 but up from less than $5 billion in 2005 and 2006.

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What would happen without immigrant farm workers?

November 27, 2017

About 70 percent of US farm workers were born abroad, and 70 percent of these foreign-born farm workers are unauthorized, making half of the US farm workforce unauthorized. What would happen if unauthorized farm workers were removed from the US?

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H-2A Jobs Certified top 200,000; H-2C

November 27, 2017

The number of H-2A jobs certified by the US Department of Labor to be filled with guest workers was 200,049 in FY17, up over 20 percent from 165,000 in FY16. Five states accounted for 52 percent of all jobs certified; FL 13 percent, GA 12, percent, NC, 10 percent, WA, nine percent, and CA eight percent.

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The Expanding H-2A Program

October 16, 2017

The H-2A program has since 1987 allowed farmers anticipating too few farm workers to apply for certification to employ guest workers. The H-2 program was created in the 1952 Immigration and Nationality Act and modified by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Between the 1950s and the 1990s, most H-2/A workers were Jamaicans who hand cut sugar cane in Florida and picked apples along the eastern seaboard.

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Farmer Adjustments to Fewer Unauthorized: 4 S’s

October 16, 2017

There has been a slowdown in unauthorized Mexico-US migration since the 2008-09 recession. After peaking at 12 million in 2007, the number of unauthorized foreigners fell nine percent to 11 million in 2014. The number of unauthorized workers has been stable at about eight million or five percent of US workers, and the unauthorized share of crop farm workers has been stable at 50 percent.

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Why don’t Americans apply for $30,000 a year farm jobs?

October 16, 2017

The Los Angeles Times asked recently why Americans do not apply for $30,000 a year farm jobs. Reporters profiled vineyard managers in Napa and Sonoma counties offering $15 an hour jobs to workers in Stockton, 75 miles away.

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FVH Agriculture

October 16, 2017

There are two major agricultural sectors, crops and animal products, and each accounted for about half of US farm sales of $375 billion in 2015, when crops were worth $190 billion and animal products $185 billion. Most US states mirror this 50-50 split between crop and livestock agriculture, but not California, a state where crops predominate. California has been the leading farm state since 1950 because of its production of high-value fruit and vegetable crops. California’s farm sales of $54 billion in 2014 included $39 billion worth of crops, making crops 72 percent of the state’s farm sales.

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US Agriculture and Labor

October 16, 2017

Agriculture is the production of food and fiber on farms, and serves as the keystone of the larger food system that includes input industries such as seed, fertilizer and equipment firms and the output sector that packs, processes, and distributes food and fiber to consumers in the US and abroad, including via grocery stores and restaurants. Relatively few food-system jobs are on farms, about a sixth, while two-thirds are in food services and restaurants.

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