Citrus Industry Participates in H-2A for Labor Needs

citrusBy Jaci Shreckengost

Concern over availability of domestic employees in the United States has caused growers to change where they get their labor.

Fritz Roka, associate professor of agriculture economics at the University of Florida’s Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, says the uncertainty surrounding the immigration policies of the current United States administration has led growers to rethink their labor supply source.

Many industries are participating and becoming involved in the H-2A program, including the citrus industry, which is increasing its use of guest workers, says Roka.

The H-2A program is a guest-worker program that allows people from other countries to come to the United States for jobs in the agriculture industry.

Roka suggests that potentially 70 percent of the agricultural workers in the United States are not legally documented, leaving growers concerned about deportation policies.

The concern is that if U.S. deportation policies are strictly implemented, agriculture has the potential to lose up to 70 percent of its domestic workers, Roka explains.

“That has led the citrus industry into investing in the H-2A program,” Roka says. The program ensures growers have legal employees for the season.

Roka says the H-2A program has benefits that draw growers in, as well as keep them involved in the program. “Those benefits include a secure, not just a legal, workforce … and a certain number of workers for the contract period,” he says.

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