Workmen's Compensation and Farm Workers in The United States

  • Barth, Peter S.;
  • Berkowitz, Monroe;
  • Rosenblum, Marcus;
  • Schramm, Carl J.;
  • Watkins, Nancy L.


Farmworkers, engaged in one of the most hazardous industries in the United States, are generally not covered by workmen's compensation insurance. Because of the dangerous nature of agricultural work and because many farmworkers are in marginal income positions, the question of coverage is of great importance. Throughout this paper, migrant workers are considered apart from the non-family wage and salary farmworkers. I refer to the latter as members of the stabilized farm labor force which includes unpaid family members as well. There were approximately 196,000 migrants employed in 1970. Current emphasis on the workmen's compensation system and rising interest in the socio-economic problems of both the stabilized farm labor force and migrant agricultural workers lend added importance to the need for knowledge in this area.

This paper will examine both the legal and economic problems of extending coverage to farmworkers. First, however, the present state of coverage, estimates of work force presently covered, an economic analysis of secular changes in the agricultural labor market, and a description of the occupational hazards peculiar to farming will be explored. The paper also presents cost estimates on extending coverage.

We will show that in the jurisdictions having so-called compulsory coverage, only about one-half of all hired farmworkers are actually covered. Further, we will find the cost of extending coverage to uncovered hired workers to be roughly between $77.4 million and $133.9 million.

Three major considerations will be discussed which are connected to the extension of coverage. Suggestions are made to include family members who work on the farm, new means of insuring the coverage of migrants are proposed, and finally, the problems of policing coverage and the delivery of medical benefits are discussed. In connection with these problems a general disability coverage is proposed for farmers to either incorporate private insurers or to be funded publicly.


SOURCE: Supplemental studies for the national commission on state workmen's compensation laws, Volume I. Washington, D.C.; 1973: 137-159.


This document was extracted from the CDC-NIOSH Epidemiology of Farm Related Injuries: Bibliography With Abstracts, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

We are unable to supply copies of the full report cited in this entry. Readers are advised to use the following sources:

  • Author or publisher: articles are frequently available from the author or publisher.
  • Medical or other research libraries: these facilities often have the material on hand or know where it can be obtained. If available, each journal entry includes the appropriate National Library of Medicine unique identification number to aid in interlibrary loan requests.
  • Government: some U.S. Government-sponsored research reports, including ones out-of print, are available from the National Technical Information Service, U.S. Department of Commerce.

Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More