Answer: Not a lot has been written to guide farmers in the legal implications of having interns. Neil D. Hamilton of Drake University Agricultural Law Center hardly mentions farm interns in his 1999 book, The Legal Guide for Direct Farm Marketing.(1) A long-time organizer for Michigan Organic Growers, who has many years of experience hosting interns, considers his interns the same as "guests" on his farm. Some states (particularly New Jersey and New York) have tried to apply wages-and-hours and housing standards laws to farm interns, but that is not common outside the Northeast. Doug Jones authored a 16-page handbook that includes an explanation of applicable New York State law. This guide is on the Internet at www.mofga.org/other/appr_handbook.pdf.
It all comes down to how state and federal statutes are applied at the local level.
ATTRA does not provide advice on legal matters. You may want to contact the Drake University Agricultural Law Center (1), or the National Center for Agricultural Law Research & Information at the University of Arkansas (2) for services they offer. There are some articles from Growing for Market that touch on issues regarding internships. One article addresses the taxability of intern stipends and wages.
The basis of on-farm intern education is experiential, emphasizing practical experience over classroom education. There are no requirements for previous education for either the farmer or the interns. Some colleges, however, do offer credit for an internship. It is helpful for the farmer to keep in mind the educational purpose of an internship, if applicability of statutes intended to protect migrant farm labor ever become an issue.
1) Agricultural Law Center
Drake University Law School
Des Moines, IA 50311
Office: (515) 271-2065
A new update of Hamilton’s Guide has just been published.
2) National Center for Agricultural Law Research and Information
University of Arkansas
Fayetteville, AR 72701
Office: (479) 575-7646
FAX: (479) 575-5830
Byczynski, Lynn. 1993. Hire interns if you need motivated workers. Growing for Market: The Best of 1993. p. 10–12.
Byczynski, Lynn. 1997. Tired? Maybe it’s time to hire help. Growing for Market. November. p. 1, 4, 5, 7.
Schell, Rick, J.D. 2004. H-2A visas can help farmers get reliable workers. Growing for Market. January. p. 14–16.
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