Promote increasing the supply of farm workers, and the availability and affordability of using agricultural technology, and agricultural equipment.
According to a 2017 report by Lynn Roche Phillips, PhD., AICP, and Priyanka Ghosh, PhD., University of Kentucky, Department of Geography, titled “Rural Land Use Inventory, Fayette County, Kentucky,” Lexington is utilizing 108,248 acres, or 86% of its Rural Service Area for agriculture. Having adequately trained farm labor is crucial to continuing the success of this important part of Lexington’s overall economy. Nationwide there are two jobs in agriculture for every new agriculture job seeker. Hiring has become increasingly difficult, and while there is increasing reliance on new agricultural technology, there is both a need for skilled, trained workers to operate the equipment, and a need for skilled farm workers doing manual farm labor. Larger operations are more likely to use agricultural technology due to the cost of the equipment, while smaller operations or very specialized operations rely more on skilled manual farm labor.
Additionally, recently increased immigration enforcement compounds the concerns of the ongoing lack of farm labor. To legally bring farm workers from other countries to provide farm labor, the Federal H-2A program enables farm employers to recruit foreign nationals to the United States for temporary work. However, some smaller operations don’t have enough work to go through the trouble of using the H-2A program. Larger operations, however, are using the H-2A program successfully. Many larger farms hire an H-2A broker to do the paperwork and process for them. Kentucky is 7th of all the states for the number of farm workers that come under the H2A Visa program according to the Office of Foreign Labor Certification. Examples of efforts to increase the supply of farm workers that could be done locally (some presently undertaken), would be to recruit or continue to recruit seasonal/temporary farmworkers from students enrolled or graduating from Locust Trace AgriScience Center, UK College of Agriculture, and other agriculture related education and training programs throughout the United States. Another possible source may be second-entry workers trying to re-establish their lives after rehabilitation from addiction or from having judicial records. There are also farm therapy programs for military veterans using agricultural therapy. Examples of such programs are the West Virginia Veterans and Warriors to Agriculture program through the WV state agriculture department where veterans learn about Ag practices to harvest crops and grow food.
Also, though not universally applicable due to costs, agricultural technology and equipment could be an answer to a shortage of farm workers for some types of farms. Programs and agencies that provide financial assistance to farms in acquiring technology and equipment should be promoted. Educational and training programs that train farmworkers how to care for use agricultural technology and agricultural equipment should be maintained and increased.