Amid Deadly Heat, Migrant Farm Workers are Keeping Americans Fed


July 2, 2024
Last modified: 
July 2, 2024

WASHINGTON DC, July 2, 2024—New data analysis by the American Immigration Council found that migrant farm workers are playing a key role in feeding Americans, even as they are increasingly vulnerable to extreme heat.  

(Explore the data here.

The data analysis found that farm workers in the U.S. H-2A status—which covers temporary or seasonal agricultural work—are increasingly in demand, in order to pick and clean the fruits, vegetables, and nuts supplied in supermarkets across the country. Over a five-year period (2017-2022), the number of H-2A workers grew nearly 65 percent. And more parts of the country expressed demand for these workers, with the number of counties where employers requested H-2A workers increasing by 35 percent; by 2022, two-thirds of all U.S. counties had H-2A workers.  

All this helped fill critical labor shortages across U.S. farms amidst a persistent lack of workers.  

“Even as some of our political leaders are pushing a smear campaign against immigrants in order to stoke fear, the reality is that immigrants are keeping us fed and our supermarkets stocked,” said Nan Wu, director of research at the American Immigration Council. “Without this critical support from migrant farm workers, American food production would wither, and families already grappling with high grocery bills would pay the price.”  

The data analysis found that while H-2A farmworkers are providing a lifeline for American agriculture, they are particularly vulnerable to getting sick or dying from extreme heat. The U.S. counties with the largest number of H-2A farmworkers coincide with some of the hottest regions in the country, such as Florida.  In other parts of the U.S., such as Arizona, Georgia, New Mexico, and Texas, over a quarter of H2-A farmworkers are required to work during months when the local temperature exceeds 90°F (32°C) on average. 

“Migrant farmworkers are keeping us fed through the deadly temperatures sweeping the country right now,” said Steve Hubbard, senior data scientist at the American Immigration Council. “Instead of vilifying migrant workers, we should champion and protect them. No one in this country should have to die of heat while picking crops.”  

Other key findings from the study included: 

  • States that have recently pushed legally dubious anti-immigration laws are among those that most benefit from H-2A farmworkers. Texas had the highest percentage increase in the number of H-2A workers between 2017 and 2022, tripling from 3,700 to 11,700.  Meanwhile, Florida had the most H-2A workers: 51,000 people. At the county level, Moore County in North Carolina and Yuma County in Arizona—states where there have been recent efforts to push hateful anti-immigration bills—were among the top counties that had the most H-2A farmworkers.  

  • There is a shortage of young farmworkers. According to the Council’s data analysis, the average age of all crop production laborers increased from 39.6 in 2006 to 40.6 in 2022, while the average age of immigrant farm laborers rose from 37.2 in 2006 to 41.6 in 2022. This indicates a declining share of young crop laborers, especially immigrant crop laborers, in the U.S. agricultural workforce.    

  • Most H2-A workers fill open jobs through farm labor contractors (FLCs), brokers who recruit and hire farmworkers directly and arrange their transportation, housing, and food. These brokers also experienced increased need for migrant workers: the proportion of people hired through H-2A visas via these contractors surged from 15 percent in 2010 to 44 percent in 2022.   

The American Immigration Council experts are available to speak more in-depth about detailed findings for specific states and other national trends revealed by the study.  


For more information, contact:

Elyssa Pachico at the American Immigration Council at 503-850-8407 (cell) or [email protected] 

 About the American Immigration Council

The American Immigration Council works to strengthen America by shaping how America thinks about and acts towards immigrants and immigration and by working toward a more fair and just immigration system that opens its doors to those in need of protection and unleashes the energy and skills that immigrants bring. The Council brings together problem solvers and employs four coordinated approaches to advance change—litigation, research, legislative and administrative advocacy, and communications. In January 2022, the Council and New American Economy merged to combine a broad suite of advocacy tools to better expand and protect the rights of immigrants, more fully ensure immigrants’ ability to succeed economically, and help make the communities they settle in more welcoming. Follow the latest Council news and information on and X @immcouncil. 


Media Contact

Elyssa Pachico
[email protected]

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