wage freeze

Legislators Seek H-2A Wage Freeze

Daniel Cooperfinancial, Labor, Legislative

wage freeze

Seventy-five U.S. House of Representatives members have asked House and Senate appropriations leaders for an H-2A visa guestworker wage freeze in an upcoming spending package.

The text of the representatives’ letter to appropriations leaders follows:

“We write with shared concerns regarding the annual adjustment to the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR). Now in 2024, the H-2A labor rates paid by agricultural employers have become more unaffordable. The new rates put further financial strain on farm operations of all sizes, and we urge you to include an H-2A wage freeze in upcoming funding legislation.

“The national average AEWR has already more than doubled over the past two decades, making agricultural guest labor unaffordable for farm employers and resulting in higher consumer costs. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, the national average AEWR will be around $17.55, which is upwards of a mean 5% increase over 2023. While the AEWR varies by region, nearly half of all states are projected to have an AEWR between $17 and $19 per hour in 2024. Meanwhile, producers in Canada pay closer to $11 per hour for fieldworkers, or even approximately $1.50 per hour in Mexico. This uneven playing field greatly disadvantages our domestic producers.

“For farmers and ranchers who use H-2A, the skyrocketing AEWR will only compound inflated input costs like energy and fertilizer, other guest worker expenses like transportation and housing, and burdens from several impending federal regulations and fees. USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) data shows that hired farm labor costs account for nearly 15% of total cash expenses. More labor-intensive industries will be hardest hit, including specialty crop growers, who already spend nearly 40% of their total cash expenses on labor alone. If we do nothing, many of our constituents will be forced (to) shutter their businesses, despite good-faith efforts to ensure our national food security and feed families across our nation.

“While more permanent solutions are needed to address the AEWR’s past impact and its future trajectory, we request that an upcoming government funding vehicle prohibit funds from being used to implement a wage increase or otherwise freeze the H-2A wage rates at January 2023 levels. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.”

Source: U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga of Michigan

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