PALISADE, COLO. — The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking to improve the resiliency of the supply chain by addressing labor challenges with a $50 million investment.

On June 14, the agency announced that $50 million will be awarded to 141 US producers across 40 states and Puerto Rico to strengthen protection for farmworkers and expand legal pathways for labor migration.

“These awards will largely support small and mid-sized farms to ensure they can hire and retain the workers they need to be competitive in the market, while also lifting up rural communities across the country,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Farmworkers make an incredibly important contribution to food and agriculture and ensure we have food on our tables every day. Improving working conditions and quality of life for farmworkers, both US-based workers and those that come to our country to work, is one key step in building a stronger, more resilient food supply chain.”

The funds come through the Farm Labor Stabilization and Protection Pilot (FLSP) Program, which was formed in September 2023.

The FLSP Program grants will support the awardees’ commitments to expand employee benefits and protections, including the following, among others:

  • Establishing robust pay-related benefits that have the potential to raise earnings for thousands of workers, as well as provide them more time with their families or taking care of their health through policies such as personal and paid sick time off, and mid-season vacation leave;
  • Markedly improving working and living conditions by strengthening employer-employee engagement, such as establishing Collaborative Working Groups with robust farmworker representation and partnerships with external organizations that have longstanding experience collaborating with farmworkers;
  • Providing additional worker-friendly benefits, such as advancement and management training opportunities, driver’s license training, no-cost English classes for employees, and additional recreation spaces in housing facilities;
  • Supporting Know-Your-Rights-and-Resources training sessions for all workers to ensure they understand their legal rights as workers in the United States;
  • Participation in Worker-driven Social Responsibility programs — a proven model for improving workplace environments — such as the Fair Food Program;
  • Disclosing recruitment practices and advancing ethical, safe recruitment practices that are essential to protecting workers from illegal fees, undue debt, exploitation and even human trafficking;
  • Sixty percent of employer awardees plan to utilize the H-2A visa program committed to recruiting workers from Northern Central America.

Grants ranged anywhere from $25,000 to $1.72 million. A full list of grant recipients is available here.