Parallel Precarity: A Comparison of U.S. and Canadian Agricultural Guest Worker Programs

Anelyse M. Weiler, Kathleen Sexsmith, Laura Anne Minkoff-Zern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


As national borders tighten against undocumented migrants, agricultural employers throughout North America have pushed governments for easier access to a legalized temporary farm workforce. Some U.S. farmers and policymakers are seeking to expand the country's temporary agricultural guest worker program (H-2A visa), while Canada's longstanding Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program has been elevated as an international role model because it fulfills employer demands for a stable workforce, enables state control over migration flows and, at least on paper, safeguards workers' rights. However, researchers have documented systemic violations of workers' rights in both countries. In this paper we ask: How do the Canadian and U.S. agricultural guestworker programs measure up against international standards of best practices for the treatment of migrant workers? We draw on a food regime framework to historicize agricultural labourmigration policies in both countries within broader patterns of capital accumulation in the global agri-food system, and we argue that Canadian and U.S. agricultural guestworker programs offer evidence of the substantiation of a third food regime. Finally, we argue that despite differences in the policy environments and structures of these programs, their future expansion would further entrench systemic violations of international standards for the treatment of migrant workers by host country governments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)143-163
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Cultural Studies
  • Sociology and Political Science


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