Collage image of a greenhouse, beef cattle, apple trees, combining wheat and a horse.

Understanding and Addressing Agricultural Labor Challenges in the United States

Nov. 2, 2023
8 a.m. - 5 p.m. (EST)

MSU University Club, 3435 Forest Road, Lansing, MI 48910 (Heritage Room)

Agricultural workers are a critical part of the United States economy, and their efforts enable American consumers to maintain access to a stable source of domestically-produced food. However, the supply of domestic farm workers is declining and farm labor shortages have become a chronic problem. This situation has created significant challenges for American farmers. Agricultural wages have also lagged behind wages in several other key sectors that compete for the same labor pool, adding pressure on an already tight farm labor market. In response to ongoing labor shortages, many agricultural employers have turned to the H-2A visa program to meet their labor needs, which is typically more expensive than hiring domestic workers. 

Join this one-day conference to learn from local and national farm labor experts in academia, government agencies, and industry groups about the labor challenges facing US agriculture and participate in a discussion about potential solutions to the problem.


While there is no charge for attending, pre-registration is required.

Draft Agenda

7:30-8:20 a.m.   Breakfast/Coffee

8:20 a.m.  
8:35 a.m. 
8:50 a.m.
9:20 a.m.
9:50 a.m.
Early Morning Session – Intro and Keynote
Welcoming Comments (Zach Rutledge, Michigan State University)
Overview of Land Grant University Mission (Kelly Millenbah, Michigan State University)
Keynote Part I - Farm Labor in the 2020s (Phil Martin, University of California, Davis)
Keynote Park II – Farm Labor Challenges and Solutions (Michael Marsh, NCAE)
Panelist Q&A
10:05 a.m. Coffee Break

10:20 a.m.  
10:40 a.m.  
11:00 a.m.
11:20 a.m. 
11:40 a.m.
Late Morning Panel – Government (20-minute talks)
Overview of Michigan Agriculture and Farm Labor Challenges (Tim Boring, MDARD)
Michigan Farm Employee Challenges and Services (Hugo Pantoja, Michigan Department of LEO)
Insights from National Agricultural Workers Survey (Andrew Padovani, JBS International)
H-2A Overview and Farm Labor Research Priorities (Marcelo Castillo, USDA-ERS)
Panelist Q&A
12:00 p.m. Lunch

1:00 p.m. 
1:20 p.m.
1:40 p.m.
2:00 p.m.   
2:20 p.m. 

Early Afternoon Panel – Ag Labor Economists (20-minute talks)
Health Coverage, Employee Productivity, and Farm Profits (Timothy Richards, Arizona State University)
COVID and the H-2A Visa Program (Diane Charlton, Montana State University)
Agricultural Overtime Legislation (Alexandra Hill, Colorado State University)
Legal Status and Farm Employee Labor Supply (Margaret Jodlowski, Ohio State University)
Panelist Q&A
2:40 p.m.  Refreshment Break

2:55 p.m.  
3:15 p.m. 
3:35 p.m.
3:55 p.m.
4:15 p.m.   
Late Afternoon Panel – Industry (20-minute talks)
Farm Worker Challenges and Solutions (Alma Salazar Young, UFW Foundation)
Labor Issues in Michigan Specialty Crops (Jamie Clover Adams, Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board)
H-2A and Michigan Agriculture (Sarah Black, Great Lakes Ag Labor Services)
Technology and Tree Fruit Production (Ines Hanrahan, Washington Tree Fruit Research Commission)
Panelist Q&A
4:35 p.m.   Topic TBD (Zach Rutledge, MSU)
4:35 p.m.   Adjourn


Discounted rooms are available at the attached Candlewood Suites for a nightly rate of $95 per room. Discounted rooms are available until October 1 or until the block is sold out, whichever occurs first. Rooms may be reserved by calling 517-351-8181 and mentioning the conference name or block code FLM.

The conference is financially supported/sponsored by the Elton R. Smith Chair in Food and Agricultural Policy at Michigan State University and the USDA-NIFA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.


Michigan State University is committed to providing equal opportunity for participation in all programs, services and activities. Accommodations for persons with disabilities may be requested by contacting the event contact two weeks prior to the start of the event. Requests received after this date will be honored whenever possible.

Contact Information

For more information contact Zach Rutledge at or Betsy Braid at