USDA Awards $50 Million to Strengthen Farm Labor and Protect Workers

US Department of Agriculture

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is granting $50 million to 141 recipients in 40 states and Puerto Rico through the Farm Labor Stabilization and Protection Pilot Program (FLSP Program). This initiative will support 177 agricultural operations and over 11,000 workers. The aim is to improve the resilience of the U.S. food supply chain by addressing labor challenges, enhancing protections for farmworkers, and expanding legal pathways for labor migration.

“These awards will largely support small and mid-sized farms to ensure they can hire and retain the workers they need to be competitive in the market, while also lifting up rural communities across the country,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Program Origins and Goals

The USDA launched the FLSP Program in September 2023. It aims to address workforce needs in agriculture, promote safe and healthy work environments, and support lawful migration pathways, including the H-2A visa program for workers from Northern Central America. The program was developed with input from various stakeholders, including immigration, labor, and agricultural groups, and was informed by the experiences of farmworkers and farmers.

How the Funding Will Be Used

The FLSP Program funds will support both required and elective commitments to enhance benefits and protections for farmworkers. Examples of these commitments include:

  • Improved Pay and Benefits: Establishing robust pay-related benefits that can increase earnings for thousands of workers. Policies such as personal and paid sick time off, and mid-season vacation leave will offer workers more time with their families and to take care of their health.
  • Better Working and Living Conditions: Strengthening employer-employee engagement through Collaborative Working Groups and partnerships with external organizations experienced in collaborating with farmworkers.
  • Additional Worker-Friendly Benefits: Offering advancement and management training opportunities, driver’s license training, no-cost English classes for employees, and additional recreation spaces in housing facilities.
  • Know-Your-Rights Training: Ensuring all workers understand their legal rights through Know-Your-Rights-and-Resources training sessions.
  • Worker-Driven Social Responsibility Programs: Participation in programs like the Fair Food Program, which is a proven model for improving workplace environments.
  • Ethical Recruitment Practices: Disclosing recruitment practices and advancing ethical, safe recruitment practices to protect workers from illegal fees, undue debt, exploitation, and human trafficking.

Notably, 60 percent of the employers who plan to use the H-2A visa program committed to recruiting workers from Northern Central America.

View the complete list of awardees.

Enhancing Farmworker Rights and Labor Practices

Addressing labor challenges in agriculture is crucial for the stability and resilience of the U.S. food supply chain. Small and mid-sized farms, in particular, often struggle to find and retain skilled workers. By providing financial support and implementing better working conditions and benefits, the FLSP Program aims to make these farms more competitive and sustainable.

Enhancing protections for farmworkers is equally important. Farmworkers are essential to the agricultural industry but often face challenging and unsafe working conditions. By improving pay, benefits, and living conditions, the USDA aims to create a more equitable and just working environment. Additional training and education opportunities will empower workers, helping them advance in their careers and better integrate into the communities where they live and work.

Expanding legal pathways for labor migration addresses another critical issue. Many agricultural operations rely heavily on migrant workers, and the H-2A visa program provides a legal framework for this labor force. By focusing on ethical recruitment practices and protecting workers from exploitation, the FLSP Program seeks to create a fairer system for all.

USDA’s $50 Million Investment in FLSP to Revolutionize Farm Labor Sector

The USDA’s $50 million investment in the FLSP Program signifies a strong commitment to addressing the labor challenges in the agricultural sector. By supporting small and mid-sized farms and enhancing the well-being of farmworkers, this initiative aims to create a more resilient and equitable food supply chain. The program’s focus on ethical recruitment and legal migration pathways sets a standard for how the agricultural industry can operate fairly and sustainably in the future.

In summary, the FLSP Program not only aims to stabilize the agricultural labor market but also to uplift the lives of thousands of farmworkers across the nation. This comprehensive approach promises to benefit both the agricultural industry and the communities that depend on it, ensuring a stronger, more secure food supply for all.

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