California’s nearly $50-billion agriculture industry is recruiting record numbers of seasonal farmworkers from Mexico as it confronts a years-long labor shortage exacerbated by the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigration.
Recruitment of seasonal foreign workers under the H-2A visa program soared to a record 20,905 so far this year — with hiring still underway for the winter desert season, according to a Times analysis of federal labor data. That’s more than double the number of workers recruited just four years ago, and an 11-fold increase across eight years.
Once a minor player in the H-2A niche, California now ranks fourth among recruiting states, behind top-ranked Florida, North Carolina and Washington, respectively, according to federal records.
The trend, evident since before President Trump was elected, is driven by a mix of demographic and political forces. The farm labor population in the U.S. is aging faster than the general labor force, while record low unemployment has opened up more lucrative jobs in the service and construction industries, labor experts say. Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants has scared away local workers.