New Hire Essentials

In an ag employer’s new hire packet, there should be two forms required for completion by the federal government: Form I-9 and Form W-4 (photo courtesy AgSafe.)

Labor is a business’ most important resource as well as its greatest liability, and the agriculture industry is no exception. There is a myriad of issues to navigate when hiring new employees with additional considerations for migrant or seasonal workers. Below are three frequently asked questions regarding labor in the tree nut industry:
What forms are required to be completed for new employees?
What federal employment laws am I required to follow?
What training should I prioritize for a new employee?
What Forms Are Required to be Completed for New Employees?
As you begin to prepare for new and seasonal hires, initiate a new best practice this year and review your new hire check list and required employee forms. In your new hire packet, there should be two required forms for completion by the federal government:

Form I-9
The U.S. Citizen and Immigration Service (USCIS) utilizes the Form I-9 to verify the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the U.S. All U.S. employers must ensure proper completion of the form for everyone hired for employment in the U.S., including citizens and non-citizens. Employers must complete and retain the I-9 for every person they hire for employment after Nov. 6, 1986 in the U.S. if the person works for pay or other type of payment. Form I-9 is required to be completed for part-time, full-time, regular, seasonal and temporary employees within three days of their hire. A new Form I-9 was released last year, so it is important to ensure you are using the correct form that expires in July 2026. For additional details on the Form I-9, please visit USCIS at

IRS Form W-4
Form W-4 must be completed so you as the employer can withhold the correct federal income tax from your employee’s pay. Employees should have the opportunity to consider completing a new Form W-4 each year and when their personal or financial situation changes.

Terms and Conditions for MSPA workers (WH-516)
Employers must provide each migrant and seasonal day-haul worker with a written disclosure at the time of recruitment that describes the terms and conditions of his or her employment. When offering employment, the employer must provide such disclosure to all seasonal workers upon request. The disclosure must be written in the worker’s language as necessary or reasonable. The employer must also post in a conspicuous place at the job site a poster setting forth the rights and protections that the MSPA affords workers. A housing provider must post or present to each worker a statement of the terms and conditions of occupancy.
What Federal Employment Laws Am I Required to Follow?
Fair Labor Standards Act in Agriculture
The FLSA is the federal law which sets minimum wage, overtime, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards for most employment, including agricultural employment. There are, however, some exemptions which exempt certain employees from the minimum wage provisions, the overtime pay provisions, or both. For more general information on the applications of the FLSA to agricultural settings, please see the U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet 12.

Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA)
The Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA) protects migrant and seasonal agricultural workers by establishing employment standards related to wages, housing, transportation, disclosures and recordkeeping. The MSPA also requires farm labor contractors to register with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). For more general information on the MSPA, please see the U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet 49.
What Training Should I Prioritize for a New Employee?
The answer to this question is it depends on which state you are located in. Many states require specific training from sexual harassment prevention to heat illness prevention. Regardless of your location, agriculture falls under Occupational Safety Health Administration’s “general duty clause,” which states “employers shall furnish employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.”
Ensure you are adequately training your employees in equipment safety, including operator certifications for pieces of equipment such as forklifts. Specialized training is necessary for unique tree nut harvesting equipment, such as shakers, sweepers and baggers. Prioritize an employee’s training based on local and state requirements as well as the employee’s job duties. Overall, it is important your internal practices and training instill a culture of safety for your operation.
If you should have specific questions regarding hiring best practices, please contact the AgSafe team at 209-526-4400 or email

AgSafe is a 501c3 nonprofit that provides training, education, outreach and tools in safety, labor relations and human resources for the food and farming industries. Since 1991, AgSafe has educated over 100,000 employers, supervisors and workers about these critical issues.