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The following is a summary of the major characteristics of the farm labor force:
Most farm workers are young.
The following data
are based on 1970:
The median age is 23.
"The Hired Farm Working Force of 1970 A Statistical Report" Agricultural Ecomomic Report No. 201, Economic Research Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture, March 1971.
The chief activity of most hired farm workers is nonagricultural. The following data are from Table 4, "The Hired Farm Working Force of 1970", USDA
The chief cause of the low average annual earnings of farm workers is that many people classified as "farm workers" are employed for only a relatively small part of the time. This is illustrated in the following data from Table 7 of "The Hired Farm Working Force of 1970" Agricultural Economic Report No. 201, U.S.D.A. :
1/ Calculated. Second column multiplied by third column. 2/ Does not add to total due to rounding.
Only 12 percent of the total number of workers who worked in agriculture in 1970 worked 250 days or more. The average number of days worked in agriculture of all farm workers was only 80 days per year.
If we eliminate the full-time workers (those who worked 250 or more days per year), the remainder worked an average of only 47 days per year in agriculture.
4. Migratory workers represented only 8 percent of the total number of hired
farm workers in 1970. A migratory worker is a person who worked in a county other than his county of residence or who had no usual place of residence and did farm work in two or more counties during the year. The number of migratory workers is declining sharply. Of the 2,488,000 persons who were hired by farmers in 1970, 196,000 were migratory workers. The number of migratory workers reported for 1969 was 257,000. (Data from "The Hired Farm working Force of 1970", U.S.D.A.)
Number of Migratory Workers in the Hired Farm Working Force
Source: "The Hired Farm Working Force" annual reports 1966-70, Economic
Research Service, U. S. Department of Agriculture.
Wage rates per hour do not fully reflect the earnings of farm workers from farm work. Piece rate wages generally are higher than hourly rates, and farm workers often receive various perquisites which are not reflected in published wage statistics.
Average Wage Earnings per hour of All Hired Farm Workers
Computed from quarterly data published in various issues of "Farm Labor", U.S.D.A. Data do not include any allowance for housing, utilities, meals, food, transportation and other perquisites provided farm workers by farmers without charge.
The use of migratory labor persists in agriculture--although it is declining-because it has been difficult to mechanize certain seasonal operations such as the harvesting of tree fruits and nuts. As a consequence, certain types of farmers need substantial amounts of supplemental labor for relatively short periods. The labor performed by migratory workers is primarily hand labor. While farmers have to compete with nonfarm employers for labor, neither a farmer nor any other employer can afford to pay as much per hour for relatively unskilled hand labor as
they could pay a highly skilled machine operator. In other words, the wages paid migratory farm workers are relatively low because the value of their services as measured by the volume of their output and farm prices is relatively low to their employers. In many cases the ability of farmers to pay higher wages is held down by actual or threatened imports--for example, imports of fruits and vegetables from Mexico have been rising at a rapid rate.
Farm Bureau has a deep and continuing interest in the welfare of farm workers. A copy of our current policy on Farm Labor is enclosed for your information.
We will be glad to work with your Committee in any way that we can.
When J. Kukfuss
William J. Kuh fuss
We should appreciate your making this letter a part of the
Extract from "Farm Bureau Policies for 1971 Resolutions on National Issues Adopted by Blected Voting Delegates of the Member State Farm Bureaus to the 52nd Annual Meeting of the American Farm Bureau Pederation, Houston, Texas, December 1970."
Farm labor An adequate farni' labor force is essential to production of the nation's food and fiber.
We share a continuing responsibility to seek practical solutions to farm labor problems. Many of the cducational, economic, and social problems of individual workers involve a gencral community responsibility. We urge Stalc and County Farm Burcaus to support programs relating to the solution of these problems.
We recommend that State Farm Bureaus give consideration to undertaking educational programs for farmers covering the many requirements of state and federal laws relating to employment of farm workers. Transportation of farm workers
We recommend that states not having statutes providing adequate safety standards for intrastate transportation of farm workers by motor vehicle enact such legislation. Housing for migratory workers
We recommend that State Farm Bureaus support the enactment of state laws relating to proper housing standards for migratory workers. We favor faster tax write-off of investments in farm labor housing. Obsolete unused farm labor housing should be demolished. Recruitment
The availability of competent farm workers continues to be a major problem during harvest and other seasonal periods.
We urge State Farm Burcaus to promote the initiation or continuation of farmer and farm supervisor training courses designed to improve farm labor-management relations and the effectiveness of supervision and training of workers.
We recommend that individual farmers and associa. tions of farmers scek to reduce their dependence upon the public employment services by assuming greater responsibility for the recruitment, placement, training. and upgrading of workers.
Wc oppose any proposal whereby the public cmployment services would be assigned at greater responsibility for the recruitment and placement of farm workers or the writing of farmer-worker contracts of cmployment or would in cffcct become a crew Icader or labor contractor.
We urge development, wherever fcasible, of all local sources of labor. We recommend the cmployment of school youth in vacation periods. Under proper supervision such cmployment can be of benefit to farmers, students, and the community.
Foreign labor programs
We support the importation of supplemental forcign farm workers where necessary to avoid crop losscs and disruption of farm production. Determination of the necd for such workers should be the responsibility of the U.S. Department of Agriculture instead of the Department of Labor.
Wc oppose restrictions on the employment of forcigners lawfully admitted as permanent residents of the United States.
The predominant hourly wage paid seasonal farm workers within a state as determined by the State Department of Labor should be the "adverse effcct" wage rate used as the criterion for the employment of foreign workers. Employment of minors in agriculture
Young people should have an opportunity to work in agriculture. In most instances such employment has desirable results. Work experience is an essential part of the educational process and helps develop self-reliance and self-respect.
The opposition of many people to the employnient of minors has led to a harmful limitation of employment opportunity. Unwisc legislation restricting employment in agriculture can further limit jobs for young people.
The programs administered by the Agricultural Extension Service and vocational agricultural teachers have demonstrated that workers aged 14 and 15 can be trained in the safe operation of tractors and farın machinery. Wc recommend continuation of these programs,
We favor the cnactment of staic legislation governing the employment of minors in agriculture, with appropriate consideration to training and safe conditions of cmployment. Conditions vary so much that legislation in this area is best left to the states.
· We recommend coverage of farm workers by occupalional insurance, either under voluntary state workmen's compensation insurance programs or cmployers' liability insurance. Farm .product boycotts
We oppose esforts to force farmers to“ require their employees to join a union by initiating and promoting a boycott of any product in the marketplace. Product boycolls deny third parties the right to buy and sell. We will assist farmers alleciod. Hy such boycotts in their efforts to maintain their markets.
(3) Workers should have the right of voluntary association. State laws relating to this issue should be applic. able.
(4) An exemption should be provided for small opera. tors in agriculture comparable to that for small businesses.
(5) If arbitration is included the procedure should be carefully designed to avoid the climination of private bargaining and should be limited to questions of wages, hours, and working conditions.
We urge State Farm Bureaus to support thc cnactmcnt of state legislation based on these guidelines, USDA wage reporting
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has started the collection and publication of wage data on a national basis for piccc rate workers. This provides more accurate and less misleading data than those previously published. We urge the Department to expand these statistical reports and 10 collect and publish piece rate carnings by states. Wagner-Peyser Act
The Department of Labor's interpretation of the Wagner-Peyser Act a labor dispute is created when a sarm is pickcted and that no workers shall be referred to any farm where a labor dispulc so defined is considcred to exist constitutes an upwarranted intervention of government in support of unionization of farm workers. Farm Bureau labor department
We recommend that the American Farm Bureau Fedcration cstablish a farm labor department to assist with sarm labor problems of farmers and State Farm Bureaus. This department should include a public relations program,
Boycouts of agricultural products by labor unions cllectively foreclose markets for entire commodilies whether or not individual producers may be involved in a labor dispute-or hire any labor at all--and whether or not workers want to join the union.
They represent a real threat that only farın produce with union labels will be permitted to move into commerce. Such market pressures can ultimately he directed towards the compulsory organization of farmers.
We rccognize product boycouts as market seizures that have assumed many of the characteristics of social revoJution directed not only at the destruction of farm markets but the destruction of ihe market system itself. Elements of the boycoit leadership have openly called for land resorm patterned after the lines of Latin Amer. ican confiscation of private property.
We believe igriculture and the nation must awaken to this peril which hegins with an assault on farmers' markets and can cnd in the destruction of our market cconomy.
We support the enactment of national legislation governing farmer-worker relations.
'This act should be designed to fit special conditions in agriculture, including cffective and fast acting remedies 10 prevent crop losses from strikes or boycotts. Guidclincs to be followed in the development of this legislation should include:
(1) Farmer-worker relationships should not be subject to decisions of the National Labor Relations Board and the courts with respect to industrial labor relations.
(2) The right of workers 10 decide questions of rcprcscntation or decertification should be protected by a sccret ballot procedure.