April 1996, Volume 2, Number 2
Farm Worker Services
The US UI system pays about $25
billion annually to an average two million unemployed workers each
California requires all employers who pay $100 or more in
quarterly wages to participate in the Unemployment Insurance program,
which means that virtually all of the state's farm workers are
covered by UI. However, only workers legally authorized to be in the
US are entitled to draw UI benefits when they are jobless.
In 1993, the agricultural sector--SIC 01, 02, 07-09--paid about
2.8 million weeks of UI benefits to jobless workers, 3 million in
1994, and 2.7 million in 1995, according to EDD Report 96A. In 1995,
unemployed agricultural workers accounted for about 14 percent of the
UI weeks paid, even though farm workers are less than five percent of
the state's labor force. However, most farm workers get relatively
low UI benefit checks--farm workers claimed 50 percent more weeks of
UI benefits than construction workers in 1995, but jobless
construction workers were paid $323 million, while agricultural
workers received $295 million.
In some labor market areas (LMAs) agriculture accounted for more
than half of the weeks of UI benefits paid. For example, in the
Bakersfield LMA in 1995, 48 percent of the 542,000 weeks of UI
benefits were paid to farm workers; in Fresno, 43 percent of 820,000
weeks, in Merced, 33 percent of 201,000 weeks, in Modesto, 18 percent
of 511,000 weeks; in Oxnard, 25 percent of 488,000 weeks, in
Riverside-San Bernadino, 12 percent of 1.6 million weeks, and in
Salinas, 49 percent of 419,000 weeks.
Rural counties are reported separately. In Imperial county, about
57 percent of the 515,000 weeks of UI benefits paid went to
agricultural workers--36 percent went to jobless employees of labor
contractors and farm management companies. Similarly, in Madera
county, 44 percent of 120,000 weeks of UI benefits went to
agricultural workers, including 25 percent to jobless employees of
labor contractors and farm management companies.
Farm Worker Children. The federal government spends about
$600 million to assist migrant and seasonal farm workers and their
children. Most of this federal MSFW funding is spent by the Big 4
programs--Migrant Education ($305 million in FY96, $305 million in
FY95, $302 in FY94); JTPA-402 programs ($69 million in FY96, $86
million in FY95, $86 in FY94); Migrant Health ($305 million in FY96,
$305 million in FY95, $302 in FY94); and Migrant Head Start ($305
million in FY96, $305 million in FY95, $302 in FY94).
The original justification for Migrant Education was that children
whose parents moved frequently needed special attention to integrate
into new schools. However, the students enrolled in ME programs often
do not move; many are the children of parents who used to migrate to
do farm work.
However, urban children may be more likely to change schools than
farm worker children--the GAO reported in 1994 that one in six third
graders attended at least three schools since first grade. Children
in inner city schools move more often--in some inner-city schools, 90
percent or more of those in some schools spent part of the year in
Youth. A Sacramento Bee profile of the College Assistance
Migrant Program (CAMP) emphasized that most of the 88 college
freshman enrolled in the program at CSUS were born in Mexico. The
"harvest of hope" program claims that 90 percent of the average 90
children who enroll in the CAMP program each year graduate.
CSUS receives $384,000 annually, or the equivalent of about $4,300
per CAMP student. CAMP students have twice-weekly sessions with
counselors designed to keep them in college.
The CAMP program distributes $1.5 to $2 million annually in
competitive grants to organizations to provide "outreach and
recruitment services to reach persons who themselves or whose parents
have spent a minimum of 75 days during the past 24 months in migrant
and seasonal farm work, and who meet the minimum qualifications for
attendance at a college or university."
Training. The DOL 402 farm worker training programs began a
National Farmworker Database, and it so far includes data on 18,000
farm workers who sought employment and training services. Summary
data on these 18,000 workers suggest that, in 1995, they earned an
average $3,927 for 19 weeks of work, or $200 per week. Some 20
percent reported receiving Food Stamps, and 12 percent received AFDC.
DOL-funded 402 programs reported that they serve about 30,000 farm
workers annually, and many of the workers they serve would like
seasonal farm worker jobs, but the 402 programs cannot use their DOL
funds to place them in seasonal jobs because such jobs do not pay
high enough wages.
DOL's inspector general criticized the 402 job training program in
Puerto Rico for spending $10 million to subsidize farmers to hire
farm workers to perform the same tasks they were doing before they
were trained. The workers being trained had an average fifth-grade
The Puerto Rican Department of Labor and Human Resources spent
$5.2 million over three years teaching 1,125 migrant workers-- 67 got
jobs, and 17 secured employment that lasted more than 90 days. An
additional $3 million was spent for on-the-job training that
consisted of "ordinary, simple, routine farming tasks, such as
weeding, planting, fertilizing and harvesting crops." Once trained,
workers received $3.90 an hour, or $8,112 a year.
Migrant Health sponsored surveys of farm workers on the East Coast
of the US that suggests that 25 percent of East Coast migrants travel
from homes in the midwest (Texas), 15 percent travel between Mexico
and the East Coast, older-than-average US born African Americans are
about 10 percent of East Coast migrants, and Haitian immigrants are
about 10 percent of the migrants.
Housing. The USDA's Rural Housing Services received $15
million in FY96 to make loans for farm worker housing, and $10
million to make grants for those who promise to build farm worker
housing--this $25 million will build, according to RHS, about 550
units, or $45,000 per unit. An additional $300 million may be
available through HUD for farm worker housing.
David Holmstrom, "Mobile kids daunt urban schools," Christian
Science Monitor, March 26, 1996. Judith Havemann, "Federal job
training programs questioned," The Des Moines Register, March 17,
1996. Stephen Magagnini, "Helping migrant kids attain college
dreams," Sacramento Bee, February 5, 1996.