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e. 1. Assessment of Need. Provide an assessment of the unique needs of farmworkers in the area based on past and projected agricultural and farmworker activity in the State. Such needs may include but are not limited to: employment, training, and housing.

Current Narrative:

In 2020, there were an estimated 24,000 Idaho farms producing 185 commodities. Idaho’s crop farming is integrating technology and automation as labor force shortages have been a reality in agriculture for decades. Round-up ready sugar beet seeds have freed up hand hoeing and thinning. Precision agriculture has improved and sped up the drilling/planting of seeds utilizing the Global Positioning System to keep rows straight and alleviate human error. Precision agriculture also refers to tracking the amount of water in the soil to enhance efficiency in irrigation. Programmable pivots have reduced some of the labor needed to move irrigation lines. 

Idaho’s top five labor-intensive crops are potatoes, sugar beets, hay/grain, onions, and corn, primarily because many workers are still needed for irrigation and harvest. In addition to these, there is large production of peas and lentils in north-central Idaho, and hops production has increased dramatically across the U.S. and Idaho, driven by the popular craft beer industry. Since 2000, hops acreage under production across the U.S. increased by 62% (Source: NASS) while Idaho’s acres under production tripled. The northern and southwestern regions of the state have witnessed growth in hops that require hand-stringing, mowing, and pruning. 

Nursery operations are another important agricultural activity, mainly the production of ornamental trees in north Idaho. Nursery and landscape flowers and shrubs are raised in greenhouses across southern Idaho requiring hand labor for planting during months not normally reserved for agriculture.

The dairy industry, concentrated in south central Idaho, has skyrocketed since the 1980’s when California enacted environmental laws causing dairy operators to relocate operations to states with less onerous oversight. Many large dairy operations produce their own hay and forage needing both seasonal workers for irrigation, equipment operation and harvest but also year-round milking and feeding operations. The dairies milk three times a day requiring relief milkers to ensure reliability.

In 2020, Idaho led the nation in the production of potatoes, barley, food-size trout, and peppermint. Idaho’s sugar beets and hops were ranked second nationally while alfalfa hay, cheese and milk were ranked third. Onions, spring wheat and lentils were ranked fourth nationally.

Idaho’s need for an agricultural labor force has remained steady and has been a high-demand industry for decades but lacks supply due to its seasonality, hard physicality of the job requiring overtime during growing season, lower wages and dismal benefit packages. The projections provided by the Idaho Department of Labor’s (IDOL) Research & Analysis Bureau show the need for agricultural workers is approximately 62,600 during the peak of the agricultural season.