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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center » Dairy Forage Research » Research » Research Project #444766

Research Project: Supporting Soil Health Practices through Study of Labor Management on Midwest Diversified Farms

Location: Dairy Forage Research

Project Number: 5090-21500-002-036-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Aug 1, 2023
End Date: Jul 31, 2024

Many projects seek to increase environmental sustainability within agriculture in ways that reduce the impact on global climate change. However, if they are to be truly sustainable, production practices must also enhance labor management. As hired labor has become an integral part of diversified crop production, an increasing number of farm owners drawing direct connections between their workforce and the long-term sustainability of their farm businesses. Agricultural work can be grueling, however, and workers often labor without access to protections that are common in other industries. Thus, the ARS PI and the Cooperator will work collaboratively to: Objective 1: Pilot an expanded set of agricultural labor standards on 5 Midwest-based diversified farms that support soil health practices. Objective 2: Conduct a preliminary assessment of the standards’ impacts on various factors, including working conditions, farmer wellbeing, and business viability.

The Cooperator will undertake two activities to address the objectives outlined above. Activity #1: Introduce and pilot expanded standards. Five Midwest-based farms that are both organic-certified and endorsed by Cooperator will pilot a set of expanded labor management practices on their farms during the 2024 growing season. Prior to the start of the season, Cooperator will meet with the pilot farms to introduce the new standards, discuss implementation, and outline supportive measures. Activity #2: Assess standards. Participating farms – both farm employers and farm employees – will provide feedback via brief surveys during the growing season. This may allow for the provision of any necessary in-season support. Following the growing season, an in-depth debrief and discussion with pilot farms will capture farmers’ experiences with the expanded standards – identifying opportunities for adjustment and improvement.