A group of agricultural organizations known collectively as the Agriculture Workforce Coalition (AWC) is calling on Congress to address concerns related to the Adverse Effect Wage Rate. The coalition which includes groups such as the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), Western Growers, and the United Fresh Produce Association, sent a letter to Senate leaders calling for action on farm labor in the wake of a mandated increase of H-2A wage rates and the impact it will have on farming operations.
“In addition to free housing and transportation, H-2A employers are required to pay workers and those in corresponding employment the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR), an inflated wage rate produced using flawed survey data that does not take into account the value of other expensive benefits provided to the workers,” the letter stated.
The AEWR is the mandated wage rate for farmers who use the H-2A program and the Department of Labor recently required an increase that will average six percent across the nation. It will be the second time in as many years that the rate has been increased by at least six percent. AFBF points out that the average AEWR has increased 17 percent nationally over the past five years, while revenue growth for many labor-intensive crops has remained relatively flat.
The AWC asserts that another wage increase will make it even more difficult for many farms to remain operational after a series of trade disruptions and low commodity prices. The group encouraged a collaborative approach between the agricultural industry and lawmakers in working to solve the complicated issue of farm labor. “We stand ready to help you craft legislation that addresses the needs of American farmers, by stabilizing the current workforce, providing access to a program for year-round producers, and in particular implementing an alternative to the flawed Adverse Effect Wage Rate,” the letter concluded.