USDA announces $65 million in grants for farm labor stabilization

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The Biden-Harris Administration announced that agricultural employers can begin to apply for a pilot program designed to enhance the resilience of the food and agricultural supply chain by addressing workforce challenges faced by farmers and ranchers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in coordination with other federal agencies, is announcing up to $65 million in grants available for the Farm Labor Stabilization and Protection Pilot Program (FLSP Program).

The program aims to address workforce needs in agriculture, promote a safe and healthy work environment for farm workers, and support the expansion of lawful migration pathways for workers, including those from Northern Central America, through the Department of Labor’s seasonal H-2A visa program. This initiative fulfills a commitment made as part of the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection and is funded by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.

“Our nation faces increasing agricultural workforce challenges that jeopardize our farmers’ competitiveness, threaten the resilience, abundance, and safety of our food system, and impact our overall economy. Simultaneously, record numbers of individuals are interested in living and working in the United States, including those from Northern Central America,” stated Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This pilot program, designed with significant input from immigration, labor, and agricultural stakeholders, aims to address these challenges. It offers incentives benefiting both workers and employers, with the potential to inform the H-2A program, elevate labor standards for farmworkers, and alleviate our agricultural workforce challenges in the long run. Besides assisting agricultural producers in recruiting and retaining workers, by the program’s end, we will have explored new methods to promote accountability and enhance working conditions for both domestic and H-2A workers. This effort will also promote safe, orderly, and humane migration. This pilot should benefit everyone in the agricultural supply chain, from the field to the dinner table.”

The FLSP Program seeks to advance the following Administration priorities:

  1. Address current workforce needs in agriculture: Based on stakeholder input, the USDA identified that agricultural employers face increased challenges in finding an adequate supply of workers, which threatens our domestic capacity to produce a safe and robust food supply. This pilot program will address these challenges by expanding the potential pool of workers and enhancing employers’ competitiveness by improving job quality.
  2. Reduce irregular migration, including from Northern Central America, by expanding regular pathways: As U.S. agricultural operations seek more workers, the Biden-Harris Administration is committed to promoting the expansion of regular migration pathways, in line with the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection. The FLSP supports this commitment, offering economic benefits for foreign workers and their families and professional and economic development opportunities for communities sending workers to the H-2A program.
  3. Improve working conditions for farmworkers: A stable and resilient food and agricultural sector depends on attracting and retaining skilled agricultural workers. Strong working conditions are essential. Through this pilot, the USDA will support efforts to enhance conditions for both U.S. and H-2A workers, ensuring they are aware of their rights and available resources, and promoting fair and transparent recruitment practices.

Eligibility for this competitive grant program is limited to domestic agricultural employers who 1) anticipate meeting all Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulatory requirements for the H-2A program, including a demonstrated effort to recruit U.S.-based workers and hire all willing, able, and qualified U.S. workers; and 2) commit to fulfilling all Baseline Requirements, as well as any selected supplemental commitments that offer additional worker benefits and protections. Eligible employers include fixed-site employers, joint employers, agricultural associations, and H-2A labor contractors.

The maximum award amount is $2,000,000, and the minimum is $25,000 per grant agreement (including any sub-awardees). Award amounts will be determined based on projected full-time equivalent (FTE) agricultural employees, desired award level, and the application’s competitive nature. In line with H-2A requirements, applicants must demonstrate a lack of a U.S.-based workforce. The grant window for each recipient spans 24 months, allowing producers to utilize the grant over two agricultural production seasons.

Applications for the FLSP program must be received by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on November 28, 2023. More information about the application process can be found at this link.

This announcement aligns with the Biden-Harris Administration’s Investing in America agenda, aiming to expand the American economy by rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, creating well-paying jobs, and establishing a clean energy economy to address the climate crisis and enhance community resilience.

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