Labor is a crucial input for many agricultural industries. For some farm operations, planting, weeding, pruning and harvesting require access to seasonal and migrant farmworkers. Other farms and agribusinesses require a steady and reliable pool of workers all year round. Obtaining sufficient agricultural labor is a major challenge around the country. In North Carolina, the production of several labor-intensive crops and meat processing operations demand significant amounts of agricultural workers with different skills.
The purpose of this page is to provide information related to agricultural labor in North Carolina, the U.S. Southeast region, and, more generally, the United States. The data and research findings presented here aim to help farms and agricultural businesses make better-informed decisions and strategic plans regarding hiring, training and retaining agricultural workers. Labor market information related to the supply and demand of agricultural workers, wages and immigration policies that could affect the availability of farmworkers in the fields is also provided.
Data Sources and Economic Statistics
National Agricultural Workers Survey (U.S. Department of Labor)
Agricultural Employment Data (Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis FRED database)
Farm Labor Trends (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
Agricultural Workers Occupational Outlook (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Resources for Farmers and Farmworkers
The H-2A Temporary Visa Program (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services)
National Farmworker Jobs Program (U.S. Department of Labor)
NC State Economist: The H-2A Visa Program: Addressing Farm Labor Scarcity in North Carolina
NC State Economist: The Christmas Tree Industry in North Carolina: Characteristics and Challenges Ahead
COVID-19 and Agricultural Labor in North Carolina
General Resources for Growers and Workers (NC State Extension)
Understanding the Coronavirus Videos in Spanish and English (NC State Extension)
Farmworker Health and the Pandemic Podcast (NC State CALS)
Labor Market News
Adverse Effect Wage Rates of H-2A Workers Increase in 2023
Urban Development and Farm Labor Scarcity: Are Workers Leaving Agriculture for Construction?
Immigration Projects Under Discussion: Why do They Matter for the Agricultural Labor Supply
Job Market Behavior During Pandemic Times
New Rules for the Calculation of H-2A Workers’ Wages
How to Protect Farmworkers During Heat Waves?
In the news
Sep 1, 2022
NCSFMRA Members Tour Shenandoah Valley Agriculture
A field report on this year’s North Carolina Society of Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers summer tour, written by Assistant Extension Professor Andrew Branan.
Feb 28, 2022
North Carolina Farms Grapple with Labor Shortages
Even with a growing dependence on migrant labor, there still is not enough workers to fill farm jobs across North Carolina.
Jul 29, 2022
From Robots to Customers: Exploring New Opportunities for Dairy Farmers
Assistant Professor Alejandro Gutierrez-Li won a $250,000 Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education grant to study Automatic Milking Systems.
Feb 9, 2022
New Grant Will Explore the Economics of Hog, Poultry Manure Recycling Technologies
Working with other NC State researchers on a new environmental grant, Eric Edwards will assess the economic outcomes of manure recycling technologies.