IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Farm Labor Markets in the United States and Mexico Pose Challenges for U.S. Agriculture


  • Zahniser, Steven
  • Taylor, J. Edward
  • Hertz, Thomas
  • Charlton, Diane


The U.S. farm labor market shows many signs of tightening, including producer reports of labor shortages, increases in farm wages, more employment of guest workers through the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Program, and a shrinking supply of farm labor from rural Mexico—the source of most foreign-born farm workers in the United States. Mexico’s farm labor market has also faced labor constraints over the past several decades. Although Mexican agricultural output continues to grow, rural Mexicans are less likely to work as farm workers either in Mexico or in the United States, as the Mexican economy transitions toward more focus on the service sector. This report reviews evidence showing that rising educational levels and increased nonfarm employment in Mexico are among the leading drivers of farm labor supply changes in that country. Several options by which U.S. agricultural employers could respond to a tighter labor market are explored, including raising wages, further mechanization, greater employment of guest workers, and switching to less labor-intensive crops.

Suggested Citation

  • Zahniser, Steven & Taylor, J. Edward & Hertz, Thomas & Charlton, Diane, 2018. "Farm Labor Markets in the United States and Mexico Pose Challenges for U.S. Agriculture," Economic Information Bulletin 281161, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:uersib:281161
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.281161

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Rutledge, Zach, 2020. "No Farm Workers, No Food? Evidence from Specialty Crop Production," 2020 Annual Meeting, July 26-28, Kansas City, Missouri 304249, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

    More about this item


    Agricultural and Food Policy;

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ags:uersib:281161. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (AgEcon Search). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.