Immigration and the US Farm Labor Supply
J. Edward Taylor (Affiliate in Agricultural and Resource Economics), Stephen R. Boucher, Aaron Smith, Peri L. Fletcher and Antonio Yúnez-Naude

Around the globe, a growing number of countries are turning to immigration as a source of farm labor even as agriculture’s share of employment is falling. Immigrant farmworkers from Mexico are unquestionably one of the most critical inputs to U.S. agriculture; their availability affects production technologies and enhances the ability of U.S. producers to compete with low-cost producers abroad. Researchers analyze the sustainability of an agricultural system that depends on foreign sources of labor, and highlight the importance of labor productivity-enhancing technological change.


This paper uses unique data from rural Mexico to examine the supply of immigrant hired labor to US farms. Econometric evidence indicates that immigration policy reforms had unintended consequences for farm labor supply. The long-term trend in migration from rural Mexico to US farms is decreasing, and in recent years, US farms have drawn more labor from remote and less developed areas of rural Mexico.

Other high income countries, as well as some developing nations, mirror the US in reliance on foreign agricultural workers. In this study, researchers ascertain what drives the supply of Mexican labor to U.S. farms and the effects of U.S. immigration and trade policies on farm labor migration.