This category describes establishments primarily engaged in supplying labor for agriculture production of harvesting. Establishments primarily engaged in machine harvesting are classified in Industry 0722 (see SIC 0722: Crop Harvesting, Primarily by Machine).
Farm Labor Contractors and Crew Leaders
Approximately 1,500 farm labor contractors (FLCs) operated in the United States in 2005, employing more than 6,000 people in full-time management and support positions. The industry is heavily concentrated in the western United States, particularly in California, where approximately 33 percent of hired agricultural workers are employees of FLCs. About 20 percent of hired agricultural workers are employees of FLCs across the United States. There were 1,142 licensed FLCs in California as of July 2004.
FLCs and crew leaders overcome language barriers and handle paperwork as they recruit, hire, fire, supply, pay, and transport workers for the U.S. agriculture labor market. Contractors are required by federal law, particularly the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) of 1983, as well as various state laws, to ensure that all employees performing under their administration are certified in accordance with regulations. FLCs are legally responsible for all violations.
In general, U.S. farm labor expenditures remained steady in the early twenty-first century. Figures totaled $26.9 billion in 2001 and 2003 and $26.3 billion in 2004, before rising to $29.4 billion in 2005. Farm service costs represented 13.2 percent of total farm expenditures in 2005, and in July 2006 there were 327,000 laborers on farms and ranches not directly hired by farm operators. Of those, California had 118,000, down 16 percent from 2005, while Florida had 3,000, up 50 percent from 2005.
Observers have long levied a variety of criticisms at FLCs, most of them stemming from contractors' heavily reliance on migrant labor, including illegal immigrants. The percentage of farm laborers who were migrant workers, a classification that includes all agricultural workers who must travel such a distance as to make it impractical to return to their residence the same day, fluctuates from about 6 percent in the winter months to about 12 percent in the summer. Illegal immigration was a hot national topic during the first half of 2006, but new legislation stalled in political debate, particularly...