In order to better address the needs of this vital population and promote a food system that is truly sustainable, SAREP commissioned research to identify the key issues facing agricultural workers and research and outreach opportunities to promote improved conditions.

This research and outreach agenda was developed based on several methods, including a review of the literature; key informant interviews with researchers with many years of experience studying agricultural worker conditions; key informant interviews with stakeholders representing a broad range of community-based organizations promoting farmworker wellbeing, and a survey of researchers currently studying agricultural worker conditions in California.

The report provides an overview of the issues as identified by the literature and key informant interviews, as well as a series of research and outreach recommendations that were directly put forth by key informants.

Of note is the fact that many respondents expressed satisfaction with the fact that SAREP is actively working to promote improved conditions for agricultural workers, as well as the fact that the research agenda is based on feedback from community-based stakeholders working directly with agricultural workers. Many informants also noted that independent, university-based research would be an invaluable tool in furthering their efforts to promote improved farmworker conditions.

The research identified hundreds of research questions and recommendations for outreach, all of which merit consideration. Nonetheless, several particularly important areas of inquiry have emerged, based on emerging issues, high need or gaps in the research. These include the following:

Health Care:

Impacts of the Affordable Care Act on farmworker access to healthcare and the viability of farm operations, the availability of permanent and full-time employment for farmworkers.

Technology:

Identification of ways to improve farmworker wellbeing through technology and social media, such as evaluating the impacts of increasing use of robots and other “smart farm” technologies on labor and employment patterns, particularly in the specialty crop sector.

Housing:

Identification of affordable and viable models for improved farmworker housing, particularly for unaccompanied migrant workers.

Farm Labor Intermediaries:

Labor conditions among direct hire employees and contract labor.

Market-based Efforts:

Impacts of voluntary “fair labor” certification and related efforts on farmworker well-being, the viability of agricultural operations and mechanization.

The research findings are based on feedback from a relatively small number of stakeholders and as such do not constitute a comprehensive overview of all issues facing agricultural workers. Likewise, the findings do not constitute a complete compendium of research and outreach that could contribute to improved farmworker conditions.

It is our hope that the research and outreach needs identified in this report represent a first step in contributing to efforts that will result in improved living conditions for agricultural workers and their families in California.

Read the Full Report here.

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