July 5, 2001 | By: Haven Miller

For Kentucky farmers who hire migrant or seasonal workers, becoming familiar with federal regulations that govern employment of these workers can help avoid problems. Many farm employers may not be aware of specific points covered in the U.S. Department of Labor Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA).

For example, some farmers are exempt from requirements of the MSPA. Exemptions include farmers who use only themselves or immediate family to recruit or transport; farmers who employ less than 500 "man-days" in any quarter of the last year (a man-day is one person working any part of the day, and ordinarily it takes six employees to reach 500 man-days in a quarter); and farmers who recruit and transport for not more than 13 weeks within the state and within 25 miles of their permanent residence.

These kinds of important details, and many more facts, are available from the U.S. Department of Labor.

One of the major provisions of the MSPA is a statement that agricultural employers or associations will not be treated as farm labor contractors. This means that, generally speaking, farmers don't have to comply with the registration and certain other procedures that traditional farm labor contractors have to. However, non-exempt farmers must still operate under requirements set forth in the MSPA.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, requirements for non-exempt farm employers include things like disclosing working conditions to each worker, posting basic protections of MSPA, providing each worker with an itemized pay statement each month, and ensuring housing meets health and safety standards.

Farmers are advised to always check out the registration status of any farm labor contractor they work with.

If a farmer works with a contractor, the federal government generally considers the farmer's crew to be jointly employed by him and the contractor. That means farmers should be familiar with the contractor's reputation and be aware of all regulations.

Farmers or contractors found in violation of MSPA regulations are subject to substantial penalties.

"Our Kentucky farmers can avoid problems if they take the initiative to get all the facts on labor laws and become informed employers," said Rick Maurer, assistant director for rural and economic development in the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. "These facts can only be touched on in a brief news article, therefore we encourage anyone wanting information on being an employer of seasonal or migrant labor to contact one of our county Extension agents who can then help them get what they need," he said.

Information on migrant and seasonal labor also is available directly from the U.S. Department of Labor.


Rick Maurer, 859-257-7582