The effects of labor costs on US agriculture

According to the USDA, the number of farm workers in the United States decreased between 1950 and 1990 due to mechanization, which allowed for increased productivity from fewer laborers.

However, from 1990 to 2010, the agricultural labor force remained stable, while from 2010 to today, it experienced an upward trend, representing about 1% of all paid jobs in the country.

Data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) shows that between 2010 and 2020, the highest growth was recorded in the livestock sector (with the addition of 41,300 jobs, an increase of 18%) and crop support services (with the addition of 38,000 jobs, an increase of 13%). The New American Economy’s most recent Immigration and Agriculture report shows that U.S. farmers are struggling to find enough local workers to perform field labor.

In 2020 alone, U.S. farmers applied for 314,028 workers, but only 275,430 were approved, which met 87.7% of the demand. The states requesting the most H-2A visas are Florida, Georgia, Washington, California and North Carolina.

Of course, the shortage of workers affects farmers in the short term, but in the long term, it can cause an increase in fresh produce imports, which benefits both Mexico and Latin America.


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