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Frequently Asked Questions - Agricultural Labor Camp

1. What is an agricultural migrant labor camp?

“An agricultural labor camp means one or more buildings, trailers, tents or vehicles, together with any land appertaining thereto, established, operated or used as temporary living quarters for two or more families or five or more persons intending to engage in or engaged in agriculture or related food processing, whether occupancy is by rent, lease or mutual agreement.”  An agricultural labor camp does not include a hotel, motel or trailer park.

Agricultural production includes commercial agriculture, animal husbandry or poultry husbandry, the production for a commercial purpose of field crops, tobacco, fruits, vegetables, timber, nursery stock, ornamental shrubs, ornamental trees, flowers, sod or any combination of such husbandry or production. It also includes the processing, drying, storage and marketing of agricultural products when those activities are conducted in conjunction with such husbandry or production [Ohio Revised Code 929.01(A)].

2. Do I need a license for migrant farm worker housing?

Anyone providing housing to five or more agricultural migrant workers must first get the housing licensed. Licensable housing includes both permanent and temporary structures, located on or off the employer’s property for agricultural workers.  If you own or control housing that is employment related, you need a license.

3. What are the camp operator’s responsibilities while the labor camp is occupied?

  • The owner and operator are responsible for complying with all statutory requirements and rules relating to migrant labor camps and residential migrant housing.
  • Post the license and the ombudsman poster.
  • Inspect and ensure the camp is clean and sanitary by abating any problem or unsanitary condition.
  • Immediately report any individuals known or suspected of having a communicable disease to the county health commissioner.
  • Drinking water samples: a safe (negative total coliform) sample result must be submitted to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) within each calendar quarter the labor camp is occupied. For example, if the labor camp is occupied from May through October, a total of three safe water samples must be submitted (one from the second quarter of the year, one from the third quarter of the year and one from the fourth quarter of the year). The Ohio EPA requires submission of safe drinking water samples for both nitrates and nitrites. Nitrates must be tested annually, while nitrites are tested per a schedule as determined by the Ohio EPA.
  • As the season ends and as the camp is vacated, make the camp clean and sanitary.

4. What about new construction or extensive renovation of existing facilities?

Any person planning to construct, enlarge, remodel or convert a property for use or occupancy as a migrant labor camp must apply for a license. Application fees vary depending on the number of housing units you have occupied.

Prior to any new construction or extensive remodeling, operators must submit a plan review application with a site diagram and floor plans with sufficient details to document compliance with the rules. A checklist, sample plans and the rules are available on request.

The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) rules and plan review covers safety and sanitary design elements such as: housing site, house design, screening, heating, electricity and lighting, toilet facilities, bathing, laundry and hand washing facilities, cooking and eating facilities, refuse disposal, insect and rodent control, sleeping facilities, fire, safety and first aid.

ODH licensing rules also require Ohio EPA approvals for both the drinking water and sewage disposal systems.

5. What is the annual license renewal process?

Each labor camp operator must:

  • Submit an application for license to the ODH by April 14, including the annual license fees of $150 plus $20 per housing unit. The Ohio Revised Code increases the fees if received after April 14 to $166 plus $42.50 per unit.
  • Sample and test the water well at least 30 days prior to the camp inspection to allow time to resolve any questions before the final inspection. The labor camp operator should utilize approved procedures for well disinfection prior to submission of the water sample.  
  • Schedule a pre-licensure inspection appointment at least 30 days prior to the planned occupancy. Have a copy of the safe (negative total coliform) water lab report for the sanitarian. If a copy of the safe water sample is not available, a recommendation of licensure will be issued pending receipt of a safe water sample report.
  • Prior to actual occupancy, each labor camp operator must renew their camp’s Ohio EPA “License to Operate or Maintain a Public Water System.” This license expires annually on Jan. 30. The renewal is usually done in December or early January.

6. When will a license be issued and for how long?

At the final inspection, the camp must comply with all of the rule provisions in Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 3701-33 before a license can be issued. Once this is verified, the ODH will issue the Agricultural Labor Camp License.

The ODH license for all licensed camps expires on Dec. 31.  All migrant labor camps must be inspected and re-licensed annually prior to occupancy.

7. What can I do about unlicensed camps?

Call the ODH at (614) 644-7455 and leave the camp address, the owner or operator’s name and phone number if you know it. All callers are kept confidential. All reports of unlicensed camps are investigated for health and safety conditions.

8. What about health or safety complaints?

Call the ODH at (614) 644-7455 any time of day. Leave a message if it is after normal business hours. Call the operator of the camp and notify them of your concerns also.  

ODH sanitarians will conduct unscheduled inspections for complaint investigations during the season to monitor compliance with the regulations. Any violations noted must be corrected within re-inspection time limits.

Serious hazards that shall be investigated within 48 hours include:

  • Open sewage or waste water on the ground;
  • Inadequately maintained sewage disposal system;
  • No water or unsafe water which is not being treated in accordance with Ohio EPA guidelines;
  • Gas leaks or odors;
  • Fire in the camp or lack of secondary means of egress from housing units;
  • Overcrowding or insufficient space for the number of occupants;
  • Major lack of solid waste storage and garbage disposal;
  • Lack of heat depending on time of the year;
  • Communicable disease outbreak;
  • Other items or issues reviewed on a case-by-case basis.