2006 ANNUAL REPORT
Ohio Migrant Agricultural Ombudsman
January 1, 2006 – December 31, 2006
Benito Lucio, Jr., Migrant Agricultural Ombudsman
Office of Workforce Development
Ohio Department of Job and Family Services
Submitted: June 29, 2007
This report was prepared in compliance with the Ohio Revised Code, Section 3733.49.
Table of Contents
Ohio Migrant Census………………….…………………………………….…………5
Progress Report on Conditions and Services for Migrant Farm Workers………..6
Key Challenges Facing Ohio, and Recommendations…………………….……….9
This report provides an overview of the 2006 migrant agricultural season and the progress the State of
Ohio has made toward improving conditions for migrant and seasonal farm workers (MSFWs) who
perform most of the manual agricultural labor in the state.
Two changes occurred in the migrant census from 2005 to 2006. First, the number of migrant farm
workers increased by 175 to 15,967 compared to 15,792 in 2005. Secondly, the number of temporary
agricultural labor camps licensed to house migrant farm workers decreased to 146 compared to 147 in
Ohio employers who have limited employment and lack housing for migrant farm workers continued to
experience worker shortages. Limited employment usually involves an employer who may have only
one major crop. Migrant farm workers are looking for a long season that may involve working with
more than just one crop.
Most migrant farm workers are hired in nurseries and at farms to work with various crops, including
cucumbers, fresh market tomatoes, cabbage, sweet corn, pumpkins, bell peppers, onions,
strawberries, peaches, and apples. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS),
Ohio’s fresh market vegetable acreage decreased by two percent. Acreage went from 35,720 to
34,900 acres. Total farm value for Ohio’s principal fresh market vegetables in 2006 was $225.8 million,
up 40 percent from 2005. This includes tomatoes, sweet corn, and pumpkins, which accounted for 84
percent of the total fresh market production for 2006.
Cucumbers, bell peppers, and fresh market tomatoes were three primary crops harvested by migrant
farm workers in 2006. Also, according to 2006 NASS, Ohio’s fresh market tomatoes increased in farm
value to 112 million from 74.5 million in 2005. Cucumbers had a decrease in total farm value, from
10.9 million in 2005 to 8.2 million in 2006. Acreage also decreased from 3,400 acres in 2005 to 2,600
in 2006. Bell peppers increased in farm value from 17.2 million in 2005 to 30.2 million in 2006.
Ohio ranks in the top 10 nationally in the production of some fruits and vegetables. Per the NASS,
Ohio ranks 3rd in sweet corn and processing tomatoes, 6th in processing cucumbers and fresh
tomatoes, 8th in the nation in total processing vegetables, and 9th in apples and strawberry production.
Clearly, the need for migrant labor is essential to Ohio’s agricultural economy and to ensure it will
continue to expand. As the farm value of crops harvested continues to rise, more employers will look
to enter these markets, or increase the acres they dedicate to these crops. For example, the farm
value of fresh market tomatoes increased by $38 million in 2006. Other crops like bell peppers may
give employers a solid crop to expand their farming operation. The demand for workers is reasonably
expected to rise, increasing the demand for housing.
An investment for the state legislature to consider is funding the Migrant Housing Matching Grant
Program that would provide matching grant monies for employers wanting to make improvements or
build new labor camps to house the temporary agricultural workers. These improvements or new
construction would accommodate some of the requests that may attract more workers. Current
workers would return to Ohio because employers are providing better housing that also could be more
weather appropriate in colder weather and allow for longer agricultural seasons.
The annual report concludes with issues faced by Ohio’s agricultural businesses in 2006 and the
future. The issues highlighted in the 2005 report involving labor shortages, housing shortages, and
immigration continued as important issues in 2006.
Ohio Migrant Census
The migrant census is based on information compiled from state agencies and community-based
organizations which provide services to farm workers. This census, while not scientific, combines all
the information provided by individuals and organizations that have direct contact with migrant farm
workers. The counties that have licensed labor camps are identified and different categories are
provided: the number of migrant and seasonal farm workers, the number of workers aged 14 years
and older, the number of families, and the number of licensed camps in the county. This is a reliable
source of information to help identify where migrant farm workers are living and working within the
state. This information is used by agencies to determine where their services and offices are most
There were 15,967 farm workers in Ohio in 2006, 175 more than in 2005 when there were 15,792. The
counties with the highest migrant farm worker populations were Sandusky (2,515), Huron (1,650) and
Lake (1,550). There was one less migrant camp licensed in 2006 than in 2005.
The Ombudsman estimates that over 75% of migrant farm workers migrate from Florida and 25%
migrate from Texas. The migrant farm worker population in 2006 is mostly Hispanic, the majority being
of Mexican ancestry.
The number of local Ohio residents available and willing to work in agriculture continued to decline, but
the demand for migrant farm workers continued to increase. Permanent year-round non-agricultural
employment provides better compensation than temporary agricultural employment. Agricultural work
is seasonal and very dependent on favorable weather conditions. Higher wages can be earned during
the peak of the season, but the beginning and the end of the season usually do not provide 40 hours of
work a week. Moreover, agricultural employers most frequently do not offer benefits like medical,
dental, and vision insurance.
Migrant workers are willing to make many sacrifices to come to work in Ohio, with the hope of earning
more money in a shorter period of time in Ohio than in their home state. Knowing that employers are
willing to expand their businesses may also motivate migrant farm workers to travel when there is a
possibility of more work. Multiple crops with different tasks will provide for a variety of work
opportunities. If workers cannot find employment in one crop, they may be able to work on a different
Emerging agricultural businesses recruiting migrant labor include dairies, nurseries, and landscaping
businesses. Nurseries that rely on local domestic labor have to increase their recruitment of foreign
workers through the H-2A program. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Office of
Workforce Development is still working on how to market and coordinate the use of the Agricultural
Recruitment System (ARS). The ODJFS Foreign Labor Certification program wrote over 50 job orders
in 2006 for H-2A applications. The majority were for nursery employers. Over 900 foreign workers
were recruited to come to work in Ohio.
Now and in the future, the Ohio agricultural economy will rely heavily on migrant farm workers and
foreign workers to both support and expand agriculturally related businesses.
Progress Report on Conditions and Services for Migrant Farm Workers
In the 2006 season, the biggest issue faced was the significant number of undocumented workers in
the state and the dilemma that employers had in receiving “no match letters” from the Social Security
Administration. Agricultural employers continued hiring migrant workers with questionable documents.
They relied heavily on the practice of being allowed to simply make an effort to look for the appropriate
documents to complete the I-9 form. They are not expected to be document authenticators when they
check workers’ documentation. Nevertheless, there is concern that Homeland Security, Department of
Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) may visit employers this year to check on the employers’
proper completion of I-9 forms. Employers are concerned about losing their seasonal workforce who
may decide not to come to Ohio in 2007 to perform seasonal agricultural work. If they do come to Ohio
and the word surfaces that ICE is doing worksite enforcement, the workers may abandon their work to
avoid deportation. If workers are found without proper documentation, they may be deported. The end
result is the same: agricultural employers will not have the size of labor force they will need to harvest
In fact, three major cucumber employers will not be growing cucumbers for pickling in 2007 because of
the concern with ICE and the lack of immigration reform. They have been operating with some level of
assurance that they will not be prosecuted, but with the possibility of new personnel each agricultural
season comes the risk of new employees not having their own legitimate documentation. It is common
knowledge that the majority of migrant farm workers are undocumented. Most undocumented workers
are more interested in work authorization than they are in permanent residency.
Farm worker service providers strengthened their partnerships in 2006. Collaboration made it possible
to address many problems as quickly as they were identified. Partners identified problems, discussed
possible solutions, and referred those problems to the appropriate agencies for resolution. The
majority of the complaints and inquiries received by the Ombudsman in 2006 were immediately
resolved through these efforts. The total number of inquiries in 2006 was 600. Most of the inquiries
were regarding job search and finding local services; general information about migrant workers in
Ohio; and providing support for state and local agencies in writing grants for migrant services. The
Ombudsman is viewed as a vital resource for many of these agencies to obtain data about farm
workers. This data is valuable for obtaining local, state and federal monies to provide supportive
services to migrant farm workers.
Two formal complaints were received in 2006 by the Ombudsman that involved non-migrant issues and
they were referred to appropriate agencies for resolution. There were also an estimated 100 informal
complaints that were addressed by the Ombudsman. Many of these entailed miscommunication about
services that were to be provided, wages earned and paid, discrimination issues, and the appropriate
agency to address these problems.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services is dedicated to serving migrant and seasonal farm
workers and Ohio’s agricultural employer community. The ODJFS Agricultural Worker Program is
responsible for ensuring that the agricultural community is informed of the many services provided by
One-Stop Centers throughout Ohio. Agricultural employers can use the One-Stop Centers’ Labor
Exchange Services to find workers, and workers may use the same Centers to find all types of
employment. Additionally, the Ombudsman is responsible for acting as liaison between the One-Stops
and the agricultural community made up of farm workers and their employers.
ODJFS staff and Agricultural Employment Specialists help employers find agricultural workers who
include both Ohio residents and migrant farm workers willing to travel to Ohio from other states. These
specialists work with all employers and concentrate their efforts with the agricultural industry where
most migrant workers ask to be referred because housing is included (usually free of charge as part of
their compensation and offset possibly by lower wages). Employers include fruit and vegetable farms,
orchards, plant nurseries, greenhouses, dairies, poultry and livestock farms.
Services to agricultural employers include:
• Listing Ohio agricultural employers’ job openings in Ohio’s electronic job matching system,
Sharing Career Opportunities and Training Information (SCOTI), and on the Ohio Agricultural
• Accepting and processing applications for out-of-state recruitment through the Interstate
Clearance System and H-2A Foreign Labor Certification job orders;
• Assisting with recruitment of agricultural workers through job fairs and interstate and local
• Referring farm workers to available job openings;
• Assisting agricultural employers and crew leaders with Farm Labor Contractor Registration
• Providing information about labor laws pertaining to wages, work hours, worker safety,
unemployment, immigration, social security, etc.;
• Providing information about employer incentive programs such as tax credits and on-the-job
• Exploring employment opportunities with higher pay and longer duration in agriculturally
related occupations like commercial chemical applications to crops.
Agricultural Employment Specialists visit migrant and seasonal farm worker families where they live,
work, and gather for errands or to socialize, to explain the availability of:
• Agricultural and non-agricultural job openings in the local area;
• Supportive services delivered through various agencies;
• Training opportunities for non-agricultural employment;
• Agricultural job openings throughout Ohio and other states.
Agricultural Employment Specialists spend the majority of their time in the field, working one-on-one
with employers and job seekers to provide the best personal service. Employers and workers involved
in the agricultural industry are invited to call or personally visit the local Agricultural Employment
Specialist in their area. In 2006, Agricultural Employment Specialists estimated that they contacted
more than 8,000 farm workers and registered approximately 2,600 for employment. Nearly 100
percent of the registered farm workers were placed in jobs.
The Ombudsman monitors the services this staff provides to the entire agricultural community in his
other role as the State Monitor Advocate. The Monitor Advocate position is mandated by federal
regulations at C.F.R., Title 20, Part 653, with the responsibility of monitoring the services delivered
by the outreach staff. The Monitor Advocate also advocates on the MSFWs’ behalf with ODJFS and
with other agencies that provide services.
The Ombudsman supports the Agricultural Employment Specialists’ efforts by participating in pre-
season meetings in South Texas during the winter. The Texas Chapter One Migrant Education
Program (TCOMEP) invites all agencies from states where Texas families work during the agricultural
season. It is our mutual goal to provide farm workers with the best information about our states which
migrant farm workers can use as they develop their work and travel plans. The Ombudsman visited
over 800 migrant workers in eight school districts in February, 2006. The migrant farm worker families
were provided with information about Ohio jobs and the website maintained by the Ohio Farm Worker
Program at: http://jfs.ohio.gov/agriculture/. Comparatively, a substantial number of migrant farm
workers who travel to the western states have to pay for their own housing while most Ohio agricultural
employers provide free housing. On future trips to Texas, and possibly Florida, we will emphasize this
fact and make migrant farm workers in those states aware of the free housing. Equally as important is
the quality of the housing as regulated by the Ohio Department of Health.
The Ohio Farm Worker Program website provides the most current information about matters that
concern Ohio’s agricultural employers and farm workers. Migrant farm workers are made aware of the
resources available to them in Ohio as they strive to earn a living in agriculture and learn what is
available to them if they wish to transition out of agriculture. This website has generated calls on the
Migrant Hotline, 1-800-282-3525, from migrant farm workers in Texas who are seeking information
about jobs in Ohio. Texas migrant farm workers who inquire about employment opportunities in Ohio
are referred to the Agricultural Employment Specialists to coordinate the placement of these farm
workers in Ohio.
A vital and crucial service for migrant farm workers in Ohio is the Texas Migrant Council, Inc. (TMC),
which operates a Head Start program for migrant children from infancy to five years of age. This is a
vital service to migrant families with young children who come to work in Ohio agriculture. The
alternative for parents would be to take their children to work. In 2006, TMC operated 11 centers to
provide day-care services throughout Ohio. Day-care services were provided for 800 migrant farm
worker children. These services included bus transportation from their temporary agricultural labor
camps to the day-care centers and the return trip home. The hours for the children’s care closely
followed the hours that parents would be working, averaging 10 hours a day. In 2006, TMC received
various commendations from the National Migrant Head Start Office for their exceptional programs and
quality services. More information may be found on their website at: http://tmccentral.org/addressbook-
The Ombudsman also works closely with the TMC staff by:
• Addressing staff at their annual pre-season meeting;
• Providing an overview of services for migrant farm workers;
• Informing enrolled TMC migrant farm worker parents of issues to be aware of and actions
which can be taken to resolve these issues;
• Attending parental involvement meetings;
• Making families aware of current events and location information for Head Start services;
• Providing information regarding employment opportunities.
The Ombudsman interacts in the same manner with all the partner migrant agencies statewide and
numerous local, state and federal agencies.
Key Challenges Facing Ohio, and Recommendations
A challenging issue for Ohio is the ability to attract migrant farm workers for those new agricultural
employers who do not have housing and are downsizing their operations. An example is employers
who now have only one major crop for workers to harvest, when in the past they may have had two or
three crops. A one-crop job does not provide enough employment to warrant migrant farm workers
traveling long distances.
Travel costs, especially gasoline prices, are major concerns for migrant farm workers as they
contemplate where they may be traveling to seek agricultural employment. It is recommended that for
attracting migrant labor to Ohio, a supportive services fund for travel to Ohio be established or that the
existing Migrant Emergency Fund, under the Ohio Department of Development, Community Services
block grant, be utilized for this purpose. Annually, $62,000 is made available for these emergency
services, which in the past has been used for migrant farm workers already here in Ohio who need
minor vehicle repair, or emergency food or medication. This additional incentive may be helpful to
attract farm workers to Ohio.
Agricultural employers are encouraged to diversify their crops to provide a longer agricultural season
for farm workers. There are several positive outcomes for diversifying. First, employers have an
opportunity to explore new markets at a time when there is a growing interest in healthy eating and
foreign cooking, which calls for a broader variety of fruits and vegetables. Second, growing a variety of
crops will prevent a devastating impact if one crop is severely impacted by weather or pest infestation.
Third, overall, the farm workers would always have some work to perform which would make it worth
their time and expense to come to Ohio. In the past, migrant farm workers were accustomed to an
employment season that lasted from May through October. Now that there are work lapses in that time
period, migrant workers now tend to go to the states that offer stable employment from May through
The state is encouraged to help find alternative crops that can be harvested in Ohio to help employers
maintain a longer employment season for migrant farm workers. Minority populations which consume
fresh produce not presently grown in large quantities in Ohio are increasing in the state. However,
Ohio’s soil and climate are favorable to producing crops such as cilantro, onions, peppers, and other
produce highly used in these communities.
Housing continues to be a need, and the Ombudsman recommends that the State Legislature consider
reinstating the line item under the Ohio Department of Development biennial budget for migrant
housing construction. Until three years ago, the Department of Development Migrant Housing
Demonstration Program administered a $250,000 per year grant for agricultural employers to increase
the quality and quantity of migrant housing in the state. In 2006, the Ombudsman received inquiries
from employers statewide concerning whether there is still a program for migrant housing. There is still
a growing demand for this program. The continued movement of the traditional, local domestic
seasonal farm worker into non-agricultural employment will increase the demand for migrant labor and
where to house them. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the Ohio vegetable and
fruit business is valued at $500 million and the nurseries business is valued at $1 billion. Migrant labor
supports both of these industries.
Every year, ODJFS must conduct housing inspections for H2-A employers to assure the housing is in
compliance with federal OSHA housing standards. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) also may
conduct inspections of the same housing if it is intended for five or more workers who will be
performing temporary agricultural work. Some employers have to meet both the OSHA standards and
the ODH housing standards. This could be a costly process for the state and for employers to have two
state agencies perform separate housing inspections. It is recommended that ODJFS and ODH
discuss how some of this overlapping may be consolidated so that only one agency is performing all
the necessary inspections. ODH may be the more appropriate agency to conduct these inspections
because they have certified sanitarians who are trained to consider health and safety issues that may
go beyond the housing standards. ODH would need to modify their current housing inspections to
incorporate the federal OSHA migrant housing standards.
State agencies may want to review their written correspondence to ensure they are meeting the needs
of Limited English Proficient (LEP) clients. For example, English language forms or general business
letters are sent to LEP clients explaining the appeals process, and numerous processes within the
agency. LEP clients often lose their benefits because they do not understand the information they
receive. They may be unfamiliar with time frames for filing, the appeals process, or deadlines for
applications. Many times the client will have to re-apply for a benefit or start over with the process,
which can cost time and money that could have been saved if this process were established in state
government. Therefore, it is imperative that LEP clients be identified in the registration process and
correspondence written in their language.
On the national level, the immigration issue is the most challenging issue facing agriculture today.
Agricultural employers face an increasing possibility of receiving “No Match Letters” from the Social
Security Administration, notifying them of those workers whose social security numbers do not match
the names assigned those numbers. If workers are not able to respond appropriately, employers will
have to let them go. Employers may also lose workers if the Department of Homeland Security
chooses to step up enforcement. It is imperative that Congress addresses the immigration issue to
avoid work slowdowns and stoppages. The U.S. Department of Labor 2004 National Agricultural
Workers Survey reported that over 65 percent of the migrant farm worker population was unauthorized
to work in the U.S. Agricultural employers need a legal workforce, and a legal workforce is imperative
to keep agriculture working. In 2006, Congressional immigration legislation passed the Senate but not
The Ombudsman Office would like to acknowledge the following agencies, organizations, and
individuals for their outstanding service to the migrant farm worker community.
FALCON (Farm Worker Agencies Liaison and Communication Outreach Network). This agency
services the Northwest Ohio farm workers. Monthly FALCON meetings are held in Fremont, Ohio so
agencies can discuss their programs, services, and priorities issues. Participating agencies update
one another on their services and discuss how they can work together to deliver the services farm
In 2006, Sister Mary Jo Toll of En Camino left Ohio to work at the United Nations. She served the Ohio
migrant farm worker population for over five years. We appreciate her tireless efforts to help migrant
farm workers set goals and achieve their dreams of a better life. Louis Guardiola, Texas Migrant
Council Director, greatly enhanced the Head Start services that properly cared for young farm worker
children through its migrant Head Start Program. He moved on to another career. His efforts at TMC
made them a model migrant Head Start program in the nation. Both of these individuals will be greatly
missed and much appreciation goes out to them for helping Ohio be a better place for migrant farm
The Hispanic/Latino Coalition of Clark and Champaign counties continued collaboration with two health
fairs for migrant farm workers. Farm workers from the Urbana and New Carlisle areas were provided
with medical examinations from volunteer physicians and nurses. When necessary, the workers also
received free prescriptions to address ailments identified by the attending physicians. This effort is
greatly appreciated in serving the migrant farm worker population in that area. In 2006, this group also
established a model partnership with the law enforcement community to build trust with the migrant
community. The local sheriff in Clark county as well as the Springfield police department joined the
Coalition, thereby assuring that migrant farm workers feel welcome in that community.
We greatly appreciate our partnerships with the State Monitor Advocates in Michigan and Indiana who
share employment information with us and maintain websites which prove helpful to migrant workers
and their families. It is a goal to establish a national agricultural website that both the Ohio and
Michigan Monitor Advocates will work on in 2007. The website will be a clearinghouse for all state job
orders so that migrant farm workers may access that information.
We greatly appreciate the support from Region V, U. S. Department of Labor, Regional Monitor
Advocate Eric Hernandez. His support in working with states in Region V has been invaluable. Great
opportunities are foreseeable in the near future to fund pilot programs and provide technical support to
assure farm workers avail themselves of the benefits available to them.
We also appreciate the partnership with John Wargowsky and the Mid American Ag and Hort Services
(MAAHS), a unique non-profit, membership-based consortium of associations, organizations and
employers organized to meet the educational, regulatory compliance assistance and labor recruiting
needs of agricultural and horticultural employers in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. This partnership is
rarely seen in other states and it has been invaluable for us in developing a partnership with agricultural
employers. Yearly, Mr. Wargowsky’s insight on employer issues, pending legislation and challenges
has helped migrant advocates understand how important it is to consider the other side of the equation
when it comes to working on topics that impact agricultural employment.
Finally, we extend our appreciation to the migrant families who make the long trip north to Ohio to
perform the various agricultural tasks necessary to sustain our agricultural economy. If it were not for
the farm workers’ labor, Ohio would not maintain its status as one of the country’s top 10 producers of
fruits and vegetables.