CAFF is developing an approach to immigration reform that is market-based and seeks to benefit both family farmers and farm workers.

Our North American Agricultural Visa proposal was presented in June 2018 at the Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems Funders (SAFSF)’s Forum, “Pathways to Impact: Leveraging our Power to Challenge Inequity in the Food System,”  in Spokane, WA.  A summary of our proposal (as well as the 2016 version and a longer discussion) are available for download:

• Summary, 2018 version

• Summary, 2016 version

•  Longer discussion of some of the potential details with Ed Kissam of the WKF Giving Fund

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), of which CAFF is a represented member, agreed on a set of principles related to immigration reform as it concerns agriculture and farm workers.

CAFF prepared a white paper on immigration reform: “Immigration Reform and Labor Requirements in Manually-Skilled Industries: A Market-Based Approach” (pdf), a Policy Brief, February 2013.

Other Resources

• Evolution of the farm labor force and immigration reform proposals (Powerpoint 2.5 MB), a presentation at the Ecological Farming Conference, February 2012

• “Simple Solutions” (pdf), an op-ed on immigration reform, Ag Advocate, Summer 2006

Recent Research on Farm Workers

• The most recent summary of data from the U.S. Department of Labor’s National Agricultural Worker Survey (NAWS), the best data on crop workers:

• Daniel Carroll, Annie Georges, Russell Saltz, Changing Characteristics of U.S. Farm Workers: 21 Years of Findings from the National Agricultural Workers Survey, presented at the Immigration Reform and Agriculture Conference: Implications for Farmers, Farm Workers, and Communities, University of California, D.C. Campus, May 12, 2011

• A recent study of indigenous Mexican farmworkers in California, i.e. those immigrants from villages in Mexico that speak an indigenous language such as Mixtec, Zapotec, Triqui, Nahuatl. The study (in English and Spanish) can be found at a special website:

• Indigenous Farmworker Study

• Earlier studies of Mixtec farmworkers were conducted at CIRS:

Zabin, Carol, Michael Kearney, Anna García, David Runsten, Carole Nagengast, Mixtec Migrants in California Agriculture: A New Cycle of Poverty, California Insitute for Rural Studies, Davis, May 1993

Runsten, David, and Michael Kearney, A Survey of Oaxacan Village Networks in California Agriculture, California Institute for Rural Studies, Davis, 1994 (Summary published in Spanish: “Encuesta sobre las redes de los pueblos oaxaqueños en la agricultura de California.” En Sylvia Escárcega y Stefano Varese, coordinadores, La Ruta Mixteca: el impacto etnopolítico de la migración transnacional en los pueblos indígenas de México. México, DF: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. 2004.)

Links to Relevant Sites

California Institute for Rural Studies

CIRS has conducted research on California farm labor since 1977. The website contains many studies of the health, housing, and labor conditions of farmworkers. 

David Runsten
Policy Director

Dave directs all of CAFF’s policy work as well as the food safety and water stewardship outreach. Dave is an agricultural economist who conducted research on such topics as contract agriculture in Mexico, fair trade coffee in Oaxaca, regional competitiveness of the produce industry, living wages in Los Angeles, and farm labor in California.

dave[at]    |    530.756.8518 x125

CAFF Legislative Representation, Sacramento
Justin Malan, Eco Consult

CAFF Legislative Representation, Washington DC
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

CAFF Policy Advisors
Stellman Keehnel, Esq., DLA Piper, Seattle
E. Phillip LeVeen, PhD, Berkeley