Are agricultural workers affected by their conditons

Farm workers are among the poorest workers in the U.S. Hazardous conditions are routine and include pesticide exposure, heat stress, lack of shade, and adequate clean drinking water.

What are the working conditions of an agricultural worker?

Because living crops and animals need constant care, workers’ schedules may vary to include early mornings, weekends, and holidays. Many agricultural workers have seasonal schedules. Seasonal schedules typically include longer periods of work during planting or harvesting or when animals must be sheltered and fed.

What can consumers do to improve working conditions for agricultural workers?

Consumers also have been engaged directly in efforts with agricultural workers to pressure firms to pay living wages and improve working conditions. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) organized a campaign to secure a modest increase in pay for the tomatoes they harvested.

Why do farmers hire agricultural workers?

At these popular direct-to-consumer operations, farmers may hire agricultural workers as an alternative to buying and maintaining expensive machinery. The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations.

What is the job outlook for agricultural workers?

Job Outlook. Overall employment of agricultural workers is projected to show little or no change from 2016 to 2026. Despite increased demand for crops and other agricultural products, employment growth is expected to be tempered as agricultural establishments continue to use technologies that increase output per farmworker.

What problems do farm workers face?

Occupational challenges faced by farmworkers include pesticide exposure, infectious diseases, respiratory issues, hearing and vision problems and musculoskeletal conditions. Poor living conditions such as overcrowded or poorly maintained housing and lack of clean drinking water can have negative health impacts.

How does climate change affect farm workers?

Farm workers are exposed to high risk of heat-related illness, especially when their jobs require working outside at a fast pace during hot days. Climate change has increased the number of days with high temperatures, and thereby the amount of time that farm workers are likely exposed to extreme heat.

What were the conditions for migrant workers?

Many of these farmworkers continue to face slave-like hardships, such as racism, long hours of stoop labor in the fields, harassment in their work, abject poverty and debt, exposure to lethal nicotine and pesticides, poor health and limited access to health care, and denial of basic labor and human rights protections.

How are farm workers treated?

Women Farmworkers are often systematically subjected to sexual slurs, groping, threats, beatings and even rape in the fields. In California, 80% of farmworker women claim that they have experienced sexual harassment.

How are migrant workers treated?

But the life of a migrant worker is often a harsh and isolated one. Cut off from their loved ones and support networks; often unaware of local laws, languages and customs; and frequently denied the same rights as national workers, migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

What problems did farmers migrant workers face during the Depression?

Even with an entire family working, migrants could not support themselves on these low wages. Many set up camps along irrigation ditches in the farmers’ fields. These “ditchbank” camps fostered poor sanitary conditions and created a public health problem.

What are 3 facts about migrant workers?

Migrant workers tend to be seen as inexperienced or unskilled. They usually receive low pay. Businesses may hire migrant workers when they want to save money, or when there are not enough local workers. Migrant workers also may do jobs that local workers refuse to do.

How the hazards affect the farmers?

Disasters destroy critical agricultural assets and infrastructure, and they cause losses in the production of crops, livestock and fisheries. They can change agricultural trade flows, and cause losses in agricultural-dependent manufacturing subsectors such as the textile and food processing industries.

When did farm workers get their rights?

The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act of 1983 is the principal federal employment law for farm workers.

What do farm workers do?

Day-to-day tasks treat animals and crops to prevent disease. operate milking machinery on dairy farms. plough fields, sow seeds and harvest crops. operate and repair farm machinery like tractors, ploughs and combine harvesters.

What is the problem with low wages?

Compounding the problem of low wages is the lack of work during the winter months. Workers have to save what they can while they have a job, to tide them over. In the strawberry towns of the Salinas Valley, the normal 10 percent unemployment rate doubles after the harvest ends in November.

How many people were on the farm in 2008?

In 2008, demographer Rick Mines conducted a survey of 120,000 migrant farm workers in California from indigenous communities in Mexico—Mixtecos, Triquis, Purepechas, and others—counting the 45,000 children living with them, a total of 165,000 people. “One third of the workers earned above the minimum wage, one third reported earning exactly …

What is the median income of an indigenous family?

The median income is $13,000 for an indigenous family, the median for most farm workers is about $19,000—more, but still far from a livable wage. Low wages in the fields have brutal consequences.

What is the case log of California Rural Legal Assistance?

The case log of California Rural Legal Assistance is an extensive history of battles to help workers reclaim illegal, and even unpaid, wages. Indigenous workers are the most recent immigrants in the state’s farm labor workforce, and the poorest, …

What is farm and food workers?

Farm and food workers are mainly an immigrant workforce, many of whom are undocumented. They are often poorly paid and work in harsh or dangerous conditions. This is just the latest chapter in a long history: the US was built on exploitative agricultural labor that dates back to slavery.

Why are farm workers exposed to toxic chemicals?

Farmworkers are also regularly exposed to toxic chemicals from applying pesticides or herbicides (often done without adequate protection), from handling produce that has been recently sprayed, or, in some instances, from being directly in the path of a pesticide application. The apparently strict rules about aerial or other large-scale chemical application, including what is not to be done when people are in the vicinity, are not always followed, because fines are low. 12 And many female farmworkers are sexually harassed and abused by their supervisors or other workers. 13 Wage theft is also standard practice. 14

What were the effects of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl?

During the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, white farmers from the Midwest and elsewhere were forced to sell or abandon their farms and become migrant workers. With thousands of white farmers now in need of work, one-half million Mexican-Americans were deported or pressured to leave . A package of important federal labor laws protecting worker rights also passed in this period, but they excluded farmworkers and domestic laborers. Not coincidentally, these jobs were most commonly held by African-Americans and immigrants.

What are the most exploited workers in the US?

Throughout US history, agricultural and food workers have been some of the most exploited workers in the country. But they have also done some of the most powerful organizing. In the 1960s, United Farm Workers held large-scale strikes at the peak of the grape harvest to force higher wages from large farmers and formed a union to negotiate with growers over the long term. 24 In meatpacking plants, unions such as the Congress of Industrial Organizations (which later joined with the American Federation of Labor to become the AFL-CIO, the largest US labor group) and the United Packinghouse Workers of America won better conditions, transforming those jobs for several decades into a secure path to the middle class.

What are the repetitive motions that workers make on a fast moving line?

On the fast-moving line, workers make the same cutting, pulling or hanging motions thousands of times a day; these repetitive motions cause crippling musculoskeletal injuries. 22 Workers also wield sharp knives and work with fast-moving heavy machinery.

How is work determined in poultry plants?

Work is determined by the speed of the processing line; at poultry plants, for example, line speeds have doubled in the last forty years, from 70 birds per minute in 1979 to 140 in 2015. Breaks are discouraged or denied, even for the bathroom; an Oxfam America report on poultry plants reports that many workers resort to wearing diapers. 21

Who founded the United Farm Workers?

Organizing by the United Farm Workers (UFW) contributed to the program’s end. Founded by Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta , the UFW united Filipino and Mexico workers in a movement that brought national attention to the struggles of workers in California fields – and built models still used by farmworker organizers today.

How many workers are involved in farming and industrial production of food from animal protein?

Key Words: Four million workers in the United States are involved in farming and industrial production of food from animal protein. These individuals, many of whom are women and people of color, play a vital role in helping to meet the public health goal of ensuring an accessible supply of nutritious food.

What are the risks of food production?

Fatality, injury, and illness rates: Workers employed in food production jobs are exposed to a wide range of serious hazards. For example, workers on dairy farms and in hog growing operations are at risk of being injured by charging or kicking animals and by contact with heavy machinery [2], workers who handle livestock and poultry are at increased risk of zoonotic diseases [3], and those who tend and harvest crops often suffer heat-related illness, [4] pesticide poisoning, [5] and chronic back and shoulder injuries from bending, reaching, and lifting. [6] Workers employed in seafood, poultry, pork, and beef slaughtering and packaging suffer from lacerations and amputations, infections and exposure to antibiotic-resistant pathogens, [7,8] and musculoskeletal disorders caused by intense repetitive work. [9,10] Exposure to such hazards results in high injury and fatality rates among U.S. workers employed in these industries.

What is the EPA’s regulation on pesticides?

In January 2017, EPA published a separate regulation, the Certification of Pesticide Applicators, to improve protections for those who handle, mix, and apply restricted-use pesticides.

What is the economic insecurity of health?

Economic insecurity: Income is a critical social determinant of health. It affects individuals’ and families’ ability to meet the basic needs of safe housing, food, child care, transportation, and health care. [15] The hourly wage for meat, poultry, and fish processing workers ranges from $9 to $16, with 50% of the individuals employed in these occupations earning less than $25,000 per year. [16] In 2013–2014, the average wage reported by farmworkers was $9.71 per hour. Thirty percent of farmworkers had family incomes below the federal poverty level. [17]

What is the EPA’s Worker Protection Standard?

The EPA’s Worker Protection Standard (WPS) is one of the few occupational health and safety regulations administered by the agency and its designated state regulatory agencies. The EPA revised and strengthened the WPS in 2015 in an effort to achieve parity in regulatory protection for agricultural workers, requiring annual pesticide safety training, notification of pesticide applications, use of personal protective equipment, restricted-entry intervals after pesticide applications, decontamination supplies, and emergency medical assistance. The standard also prohibits pesticide application and early reentry by workers younger than 18 years. In January 2017, EPA published a separate regulation, the Certification of Pesticide Applicators, to improve protections for those who handle, mix, and apply restricted-use pesticides. However, the EPA announced a delay in the effective date for the regulation, influenced perhaps by opposition from some grower organizations, regulators, and pesticide registrants (although this is being contested in court).

How do unions help workers?

Unions serve as a mechanism for workers to negotiate with employers to provide livable wages, health benefits, and safe working conditions. Unions have a positive effect on both unionized workers and non-union workers with respect to wages, fringe benefits, pay inequality, and working conditions. [43] .

How many states do not require workers compensation insurance?

Moreover, despite high injury and fatality rates among farmworkers, at least 15 states do not require agricultural employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance.

Why are rural jobs so difficult?

Working conditions in rural areas tend to be difficult, precarious and hazardous because rural jobs are mostly informal, with no written contracts and little or no protection. People tend to work for long hours, earning low and unstable incomes and often have to combine more than one activity to make a living.

How does FAO help rural areas?

FAO focuses on producing sound evidence to inform policy and provides timely technical support adapted to country needs.

What is the FAO’s work?

FAO’s work focuses on promoting safer practices across agricultural sub-sectors. For instance, to reduce occupational hazards related to pesticide use, FAO promotes an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Programme that combines different management strategies to grow healthy crops and encourage natural pest control mechanisms. Jointly with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), FAO also performs Secretariat functions for the Rotterdam Convention, which contributes to ensure decent work standards in rural areas by regulating the import and export of certain hazardous chemicals and pesticides.

Why are farm workers reticent to demand better working conditions?

And when jobs are scarce and wages are scant, workers are reticent to demand improved working conditions because they are fearful that such demands will lead to unemployment. Further compounding the problem, because of concerns about deportation, a substantial number of farm workers are mistrustful of government agencies …

Why are farm workers reticent to work?

And when jobs are scarce and wages are scant, workers are reticent to demand improved working conditions because they are fearful that such demands will lead to unemployment. Further compounding the problem, because of concerns about deportation, a substantial number of farm workers are mistrustful of government agencies that could help vindicate their rights to a safe workplace.


Farm workers provide an indispensable service, yet their jobs are some of the most dangerous and least adequately compensated in the country. Much of the injustice and inhumanity farm workers face stems from their specific exclusion from basic protections that workers in other sectors of society receive.

What is a union?

A union is an organization of workers that collectively bargains for wages and working conditions with a given employer. A union contract allows workers to report problems on the job without fear of getting fired.

Why do farm workers want unions?

Collective bargaining through unions neutralizes the power imbalance between workers and growers, thus empowering workers to stand up and speak out about the injustices affecting them. Union contracts can mean:

How does consumer pressure affect farm income?

Consumer pressure to change production practices to be more environmentally friendly, use fewer chemicals, or offer niche market products like organic, non-GMO, or hormone free has also impacted farm income. Often these production practices are more expensive than conventional methods, utilize expensive equipment, or produce less yields and therefore less product to sell.

How can technology help in agriculture?

As a response to the decreasing available labor, increasing cost of labor, reduced farm income, and new production methods agriculture has made innovative steps to replace human-based jobs with technology. Labor shortages and financial restraints require innovative growth or risk the loss of a U.S. food system. One major advancement that many food crops are instilling is the use of mechanical harvesting to replace hand labor. Equipment is expensive, however it can be utilized over many growing seasons and often reduces the need for labor to just a handful of people. Artificial intelligence is opening the door to even more developments, such as robotic fruit pickers that work more efficiently than hand labor. Robots and mechanical harvesters don’t require housing, transportation, food, or breaks, and can be operated for as long as they have power.

How much will farmers lose in 2021?

Despite rising food costs, farmers are predicted to lose 9.7 percent of total net income in 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Farmers are facing a difficult challenge with reduced income, more consumer demands, and very notably, reduced labor sources.

What is the major advancement in food crops?

One major advancement that many food crops are instilling is the use of mechanical harvesting to replace hand labor. Equipment is expensive, however it can be utilized over many growing seasons and often reduces the need for labor to just a handful of people.

How much does a farmer get for every dollar spent on food?

However, for every dollar spent on food, a farmer receives only 7.6 cents.

How can technology reduce labor?

Many dairies are switching to automatic milking machines, which can typically service 50 to 70 cows per day, and automatic calf feeders, which can feed up 120 calves per mixing station. These technologies, although have not always proven profitable in current studies, have the capability to reduce labor needs which solves a major problem. Without the use of these machines or ability to find workers, these dairies would have to close indefinitely.

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