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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.
Fewer than 10,000 farm employers requested H-2A workers, but it is hard to determine the exact number of employers because some many multiple requests. The top employers of H-2A workers were mostly associations and labor contractors, including NCGA with 12,000 jobs certified, WAFLA, 7,100, Fresh Harvest, 4,600, Zirkle, 3,000, Elkhorn, 2,700.
The H-2A program has since 1987 (H-2 between 1952 and 1987) allowed farmers anticipating too few farm workers to apply to DOL for certification to employ guest workers. Between the 1950s and the 1990s, most H-2A workers were Jamaicans who hand cut sugar cane in Florida and picked apples along the eastern seaboard.
Just before the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 was enacted, DOL certified 20,700 farm jobs to be filled with then H-2 workers in FY85 including 10,000 in sugar cane. The mechanization of the sugar cane harvest in the early 1990s and the upsurge in illegal immigration after IRCA reduced certifications to 15,100 in FY95, including 4,100 in tobacco.
In FY17, when over 200,000 jobs were certified, almost 22,000 were in berries, followed by 12,700 in apples and 12,500 in tobacco. H-2A workers continue to pick apples in New York and other northeastern states, but most H-2A apple pickers are employed in WA, which produces two-thirds of US apples.