Citrus harvesting trends in Florida

Harvesting citrus is manual and labor intensive, making the cost of labor a key component of the cost of harvesting. The H-2A guest worker program allows companies to temporarily hire non-U.S. citizens to perform agricultural labor or services of seasonal nature. Given that domestic workers for harvesting are in short supply, harvesting companies in Florida (and other states) hire a large proportion of foreign workers under the H-2A program to ensure crops are harvested on a timely basis. This article uses data to examine trends in citrus harvesting in recent years.

Wages and related costs
The wage rate for workers under the H-2A program is called the adverse effect wage rate (AEWR). Figure 1 shows a comparison of the Florida minimum wage and the AEWR as well as the difference between the two from 2016–17 to 2022–23. Hiring H-2A workers has been more expensive than hiring domestic workers by a range between $2.41 and $3.33 per hour, depending on the year.

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