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Potential Impacts of a Pandemic on the U.S. Farm Labor Market

AAEA member’s new research released in AEPP

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on our economy, that’s no surprise. The pressure on producers has also weighed heavy on the H-2A farm workers, but to what extent?

In the recently released article “Potential Impacts of a Pandemic on the U.S. Farm Labor Market” Diane Charlton from Montana State University and Marcelo Castillo from USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) examine the potential effects of increasing unemployment rates on demand for H-2A guest workers and changes in the number of H-2A visas issued in 2020 compared to previous years.

Charlton says, “We illustrate that disruptions in the food supply chain due to the pandemic could reduce the demand for farm workers in upstream markets while worker sickness and barriers to labor migration could reduce the supply of worker to farms. Historically high unemployment rates during the pandemic could reduce labor supply constraints if workers laid off from other industries are willing to work in agriculture. We find that a 1-percentage point increase in the state unemployment rate from 2007-2019 was associated with a 5 percent decrease in H-2A demand. Considerably fewer H-2A guest worker visas were issued in April 2020 compared to previous years. Nevertheless, nearly 150,000 H-2A visas were issued from January-July, 2020 indicating that H-2A remained an important source of labor for U.S. farms during the pandemic.”

If you are interested in setting up an interview, please contact Allison Ware in the AAEA Business Office.

ABOUT AAEA: Established in 1910, the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) is the leading professional association for agricultural and applied economists, with 2,500 members in more than 60 countries. Members of the AAEA work in academic or government institutions as well as in industry and not-for-profit organizations, and engage in a variety of research, teaching, and outreach activities in the areas of agriculture, the environment, food, health, and international development. The AAEA publishes two journals, the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, as well as the online magazine Choices and the online open access publication series Applied Economics Teaching Resources. To learn more, visit

Contact: Allison Ware
Senior Communications Manager
(414) 918-3190