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Rural Migration Blog

October 2017

The Expanding H-2A Program

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

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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FVH Agriculture

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

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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