Sep 26, 2023Farm employers, farmworkers to benefit from USDA program
Agricultural employers can begin to apply for a pilot program designed to address workforce challenges farmers and ranchers face.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is providing up to $65 million in grants available for the Farm Labor Stabilization and Protection Pilot Program (FLSP Program), according to a news release.
Working in coordination with other federal agencies, the program is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to improve the resiliency of the food and agricultural supply chain, according to the release.
The program will help address workforce needs in agriculture, promote a safe and healthy work environment for farmworkers, and aims to support expansion of lawful migration pathways for workers, including for workers from northern Central America, through the Department of Labor’s (DOL) seasonal H-2A visa program, according to the release.
“Our country is facing growing agriculture workforce challenges that jeopardize our farmers’ ability to be competitive, threatens the resiliency, abundance and safety of our food system, and has repercussions on our overall economy,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in the release. “At the same time, record numbers of people are interested in living and working in the United States, including from northern Central America.”
The program has been designed with input from immigration, labor, and agricultural stakeholders in an effort to help address immediate challenges.
“The program will provide incentives designed to simultaneously benefit workers and employers, with the potential to inform the H-2A program, raise labor standards for farmworkers, and help alleviate our agricultural workforce challenges over the long term,” Vilsack said in the release.
“In addition to helping agricultural producers recruit and retain workers, at the end of the program we will have tested new ways to promote accountability and improve working conditions for domestic and H-2A workers alike – demonstrating how employers benefit by doing right by workers. The effort will also facilitate safe, orderly, and humane migration. This pilot should be a win for everyone along the agricultural supply chain, from the field to the dinner table.”
The program works to address current agriculture workforce needs. Based on grower input, USDA identified agricultural employers have experienced increased challenges finding an adequate supply of workers, which threatens the domestic capacity to produce a safe and robust food supply, according to the release. The program will help address the challenges by expanding the potential pool of workers and enhancing employers’ competitiveness by improving the quality of the jobs they offer, according to the release.
Through the expansion of regular worker pathways, the program aims to reduce irregular migration. “While U.S. agricultural operations seek additional workers, the Biden-Harris Administration has committed to promote the expansion of regular migration pathways, as part of the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection,” according to the release. “The FLSP offers an opportunity to support this commitment, with economic benefits for foreign workers and their families, and professional and economic development opportunities for communities that send their workers to participate in the H-2A program.”
The program is also designed to improve farmworker working conditions. “A stable and resilient food and agricultural sector relies on attracting and retaining skilled agricultural workers, and strong working conditions are critical to achieve that goal,” according to the release. “Through this pilot program, USDA will support efforts to improve working conditions for agricultural workers, both U.S. and H-2A workers. The pilot will help ensure that workers know their rights and the resources available for them, and will promote fair and transparent recruitment practices.”
Eligibility for this competitive grant program is limited to domestic agricultural employers who 1) anticipate meeting all DOL and Department of Homeland Security regulatory requirements for the H-2A program, including demonstrated effort to effectively recruit U.S.-based workers and hire all willing, able, and qualified U.S. workers and commit to additional worker benefits including fixed-site employers, joint-employers, agricultural associations, and H-2A labor contractors, according to the release.
More information can be found here.