There are an estimated three million migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the United States. A migrant farmworker, unlike a seasonal farmworker, establishes a temporary home during the employment period. Migrant and seasonal farmworkers often arrange housing through their employer, with a greater proportion of migrant farmworkers utilizing employer-based housing systems than seasonal employees. Employer-based housing systems are often organized in camps with numerous units (i.e., apartments or trailers). The quality and conditions of housing vary from camp to camp as they are frequently built and maintained by the employer and dependent on employee turnover.
Camp housing conditions often have negative social and physical attributes, including excessive noise, crowding, mold, insect and rodent infestation, and structural damage. Farmworkers living in such conditions are prone to health problems such as depression, anxiety, respiratory disease, skin disease, infectious disease and injuries. Farmworker housing conditions are addressed by various government agencies at the national, state and local levels. Federal legislation addresses farmworker housing through the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (29 USCA §1802). Various state laws also address farmworker housing. Considering the different agencies involved in advancing farmworker health, each agency should have a strong understanding of its authority and responsibility to allow for effective collaboration.
This issue brief is meant to help local and state agencies and interested individuals better understand the legal authority relating to farmworker housing.