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e. 2. An assessment of the agricultural activity in the State means: 1) Identifying the top five labor-intensive crops, the months of heavy activity, and the geographic area of prime activity; 2) Summarize the agricultural employers’ needs in the State (i.e. are they predominantly hiring local or foreign workers, are they expressing that there is a scarcity in the agricultural workforce); and 3) Identifying any economic, natural, or other factors that are affecting agriculture in the State or any projected factors that will affect agriculture in the State

Current Narrative:

Agricultural employers primarily hire foreign workers for the use of hand labor utilizing the H2A Visa program which reported 6,757 visas approved for Idaho in 2021. Producers are heavily dependent on foreign labor due to its reliance on guaranteed labor as crops must be planted, irrigated and harvested in a timely manner.

In Northern Idaho, the predominant crops are hay, barley, grain, hops, peas, beans (lentils, garbanzos, and chickpeas) wheat and grass seed. The earliest activity involves hops, stringing from April to May and training from May through June. The harvest season for hay begins in May and lasts through September. Harvest for the other groups lasts from August through Mid-September. The estimated number of farmworkers in Northern Idaho was almost 2,500 for 2020 and slightly over that amount in 2021.

In Southeastern and Eastern Idaho, the predominant crops are barley, beans, grain, hay, potatoes, and sugar beets. The hiring season begins in April for irrigation activities. The harvest for potatoes and sugar beets is in October and November, respectively, occurring later in the fall due to the later start of the growing season in the spring.  In addition to farmworkers, there is a requirement for truck drivers, equipment operators from May to November, along with sorters and testers during harvest. In 2020, Southeastern Idaho had about 9,200 farmworkers and Eastern Idaho had approximately 7,000. 2021 saw the same amount of agricultural employment for both regions.

Southwestern Idaho has greater diversity of significant crop activity:  seeds, barley, beans, corn, fruits (cherries, apples, and peaches primarily), grain, hay, hops, mint, oats, onions, potatoes, sugar beets, and wheat. Workers are needed for irrigation, hoeing, topping, and harvest in the months of heavy activity. Apples and other fruits require pruning and thinning from January to March. The first cutting of hay occurs in April and can end as late as October. The number of farmworkers in Southwestern Idaho was 14,446 in 2020 and 14,698 in 2021.

The traditional South-Central Idaho crops are barley, beans, corn, grain, hay, potatoes, sugar beets, forage crops, and wheat. There is also high demand for farm equipment operators and truck drivers. Greenhouse and nursery workers are needed for seedling and plant cultivation. South central Idaho pulls sheepherders from Peru with the caveat that the Department of Homeland Security approves countries for H2A visas with a new list for each year. South Central Idaho had 15,987 farmworkers in 2020 and 15,983 in 2021.