The Sustainability of Organic Farms Under the H2A Program: Evaluating the Program's Effects on Mitigating Farm Labor Shortages and Maintaining Business Viability

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2014: $101,096.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2018
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Cesar Escalante
University of Georgia

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Farm Business Management: agricultural finance, financial management, labor/employment, whole farm planning


    This project assessed the effectiveness of the H2A program in mitigating shortages of seasonal farm labor and evaluated the effects of certain program restrictions and requirements on the viability of organic farms in the Southeast. This project was able to reinforce the need for further reforms in the existing guidelines, requirements, and actual implementation of the H2A program so that the employment of H2A replacement workers would help sustain the viability of farm businesses.  Recent legislative efforts, such as the H2C proposal replacing H2A that involves lower foreign labor employment costs (among others), align with this project’s goals.


    Project objectives:

    1. Initially, this project will determine the relative effectiveness of the H2A program in terms of filling in the farm labor supply gap among organic and conventional farmers in the Southeast. Feedback, opinions, assessments and/or suggestions on the program’s usability and benefits-costs tradeoffs will be collected from farmers that have had availed of the H2A hiring alternative.
    2. This project will also evaluate the impact of the real value (cost) of the H2A program on the organic farms’ profitability and viability as well as indirect effects on the local economy. The farm-level impact will be assessed through an analysis of labor input substitution decisions, especially considering labor sourcing and opportunity cost issues, under a farm simulation-optimization analytical framework. Various possible model scenarios that capture H2A adoption and non-adoption options as well as several iterative combinations of possible H2A cost structures will be analyzed.
    3. To disseminate this project’s results to producers, commodity groups, policy makers, and academic professionals to clarify the program’s impact on farm businesses.


    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.