Farmers can use what’s called the H-2A program to recruit foreign workers to do temporary or seasonal work here in the U.S.
From July to September of 2008, there were 171 H2-A jobs posted. Thirty-nine Americans applied for those positions.
The very next quarter, in the final three months of 2008, 887 Americans applied for the 981 H-2A available. And as unemployment jumped at the beginning of 2009, so did applications from Americans; 1,799 applied for 726 jobs. That means instead of the jobs being filled by foreign or migrant workers, they are mostly going to U.S. residents.
“A lot of the American workers are now applying for farm jobs that maybe they may not have applied for in the past,” said Olga Ruiz, state monitor advocate with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. “People who started out in agriculture or even field labor who got out of that field maybe went into construction or other types of work, who maybe got laid off for whatever reason, decided they wanted to go back to farm work, because it’s a paycheck and they need it.”
Condon posted two farm hand positions on Craigslist in April. He said he had to turn people away. Thirty-eight people applied.
“We had people with doctorates, we had people with masters degrees we had people with all sorts of different career backgrounds,” he said. “Carpenters, people who’ve worked on farms in other countries, people who have managed museums, all sorts of things you would never suspect you would find on a farm labor application.”