Economic Information Bulletin No. (EIB-235) 28 pp

July 2022

Adjusting to Higher Labor Costs in Selected U.S. Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Industries

This report examines how U.S. producers of selected labor-intensive fresh fruit and vegetables are addressing the rising costs of labor. Farm labor costs increased from 2010-19 for several reasons, including fewer newly-arrived unauthorized workers, rising State minimum wages, and new requirements to pay overtime wages to some farm workers. Rising labor costs often cause producers to adjust their production and management practices to compensate for the changing cost structure. Short-term options to meet the labor needs on farms include management changes, such as picking fields and orchards less often and introducing mechanical aids that increase worker productivity. Longer-term options include the use of more labor-saving mechanization, additional H-2A guest workers, and reducing overall domestic production.

Errata: On August 11, 2022, this report was reposted to correct minimum wage values in figure 2. The corresponding footnote was also updated to reference sources. No text or other figures were impacted.

Keywords: Automation, farm labor, fruit, guest workers, H-2A program, harvest, imports, mechanization, produce, vegetables, melons

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