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Rural Migration Blog

October 2022

US Farm Labor Outlook

The US farm labor market employs about 2.5 million workers sometime during a typical year to fill 1.5 million full-time equivalent jobs (average employment). About 80 percent of hired farm workers, some two million, were born in Mexico, including 1.75 million who have settled in the US and 250,000 who work seasonally as H-2A workers for an average six months a year. Most of the settled Mexican-born workers arrived in the 1990s and early 2000s in their 20s, and are now in their 40s; half are unauthorized.

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Food Spending: 2021

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey reported that there were 133.6 million US "consumer units" or households in 2021. They had an average of 2.5 persons, 1.3 earners and 1.9 motor vehicles; 63 percent were homeowners and the average age of the reference person in the household was 51.

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Food Safety and Farm Labor Compliance

There was little government or industry concern with the safety of fresh produce until the 1990s. The death of several children in 1993 who ate undercooked Jack in the Box hamburgers contaminated with E Coli prompted efforts to prevent the contamination of food rather than simply investigating the source food that made people sick. Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plans became routine in meat processing, and spread to fresh produce as the FDA traced more food illnesses to green onions and other fresh produce that is eaten raw.

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