U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association (FFVA) commended the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) for extending the 2020 Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) for the H-2A program through 2022. The vast majority of Florida citrus is harvested by temporary foreign workers in the H-2A program.
“We applaud the agency for recognizing that the USDA’s (U.S. Department of Agriculture) annual Farm Labor Survey was not the appropriate tool to determine wages for workers in the H-2A program,” FFVA declared in a statement. “This change more closely matches market wage rates while not lowering wages for agricultural workers. Florida’s AEWR is $11.71. Beginning in 2023, the wage rate will be adjusted based on the annual change in the employment cost index, a broad measure of the cost of labor in the overall economy.”
“The measure holds wages stable during the transition period and provides much-needed predictability for agriculture employers who use the H-2A program,” FFVA added. “It eliminates the runaway wage increases that were common when the AEWR was based on the Farm Labor Survey.”
“Over the past several years, farm wages have increased at a higher pace than other industries, which is why this DOL rule could not come at a better time,” Perdue said. “This is an example of good government that will ensure greater stability for farmers and help them make long-term business decisions rather than facing uncertainty year after year.”
For the vast majority of agricultural jobs, the DOL rule stabilizes the wage rate through calendar year 2022 by using the average hourly wages for field and livestock workers, combined. The average hourly wages are reported by the USDA’s Farm Labor Survey published as the AEWRs for field and livestock worker occupations. Beginning in 2023, and annually thereafter, DOL will adjust these AEWRs by the percentage change in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) employment cost index for wages and salaries for the preceding 12-month period.
For all other agricultural jobs, DOL will set and annually adjust the AEWRs using the average hourly wages for the occupational classification reported by the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics Survey program. These agricultural jobs are often supervisory or higher skilled jobs, which pay higher wages than typical farming occupations.
The changes implemented in the rule also address stakeholder concerns about the potential for significant and unpredictable wage changes from year-to-year associated with DOL’s prior AEWR methodology.
See a full statement from the USDA about the H-2A wage issue here.
Sources: U.S. Department of Agriculture and Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association
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