Survey results confirm growers are facing significant labor constraints and current policies need reform.
Workforce development and labor availability is one of the most critical issues AmericanHort’s advocacy team works to address to better meet the needs of the green industry. The 2022 Greenhouse and Nursery Labor Employment Survey was conducted in collaboration between AmericanHort, the leading trade association for the green industry, and researchers from the University of California Davis, and Michigan State University to help understand the depth of labor scarcity impacting the greenhouse and nursery sectors of the green industry.
The survey collected information about the prevalence of horticultural industry workforce shortages, how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted farming operations, and the extent to which labor-saving technologies are helping mitigate the problem. Responses came from a broad sample of greenhouse and nursery operations spanning the entire United States. “According to our survey results, the green industry is grappling with a workforce shortage problem. Despite making expensive technology investments and changes to production and labor management practices to deal with the issue, growers reported ongoing employee shortages and a significant need for a year-round H-2A visa program,” said Dr. Zachariah Rutledge, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University.
Key Survey Findings include:
- Nearly two thirds of survey respondents indicated that they were unable to hire all the employees they wanted during 2021. The average workforce shortage across the sample was nearly 20% of the workforce that growers needed to operate at full capacity.
- About 62% of growers indicated that COVID-19 caused them to experience additional workforce shortages in 2021.
- Nearly half of the surveyed growers started using a new labor-saving technology during 2021. Of those who did, 50% reported spending at least $100,000 on it.
- Thirty five percent of the growers surveyed used the H-2A program in 2021. Half of those who used the program reported struggling to fill non-seasonal jobs that do not currently qualify for H-2A, revealing a significant need for a year-round or long-term agricultural guest worker program.
- Survey respondents offered a variety of work incentives to help attract and retain employees, including health insurance, bonuses, and scheduling flexibility.
The results from this survey reveal that greenhouse and nursery growers are facing significant labor constraints and that current policies are failing to meet their needs. While growers are taking action to help mitigate production losses using work incentives and technology investments, many continue to face challenges in securing an adequate workforce. AmericanHort’s advocacy team continues to work with industry partners to influence change to current workforce policies because without innovative market solutions or changes to existing policies, this problem will continue.
To receive a full copy of the survey report and to download an infographic summarizing survey results, go to AmericanHort.org/EmploymentSurvey, or contact AmericanHort at Email: Advocacy@AmericanHort.org or call 614-487-1117.