U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) recently spoke to South Georgia citrus growers in Ochlocknee about their needs and introduced legislation to reduce a wage-rate increase in the H-2A guestworker program.
The industry’s needs include shoring-up supply chains, expanding facilities to keep up with growing demand, and strengthening research on diseases and pests that pose a unique threat to citrus.
“I’m here to make sure that Georgia’s fast-growing citrus sector is represented as we take up the farm bill in the Senate,” Ossoff said. “I’ll be returning to the Senate now with a very precise understanding of Georgia citrus growers’ needs in terms of research, facilities and other forms of support.”
Following his Georgia farm tour, Ossoff joined with U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) to introduce legislation to direct the U.S. Secretary of Labor to modify implementation of the adverse effect wage rate (AEWR) for H-2A nonimmigrants. The bill as proposed would reverse Georgia’s 14% increase for 2023 by reinstating the 2022 rate through the end of 2023.
“The AEWR formula is imposing on Georgia farmers a sudden and massive increase in costs,” Ossoff said. “I’m leading this bipartisan legislation to prevent damage to Georgia’s agricultural producers.”
Tillis added, “The H-2A visa program has long been a last-resort option for farmers as a legal and reliable source of labor to plant, grow and harvest their crops.” But he said the wage rate farmers are required to pay “has long outpaced the rate of inflation and become unsustainable. This year’s increase has only exacerbated the current national labor crisis.”
Ossoff is continuing to meet with growers from key agricultural industries. He has also been working to open more international markets for Georgia’s farmers to export more agricultural products.
Sources: U.S. Sen. John Ossoff and Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association
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