A final rule updating the Adverse Effect Wage Rates for the H-2A program has been published in the Federal Register. The amended H-2A wage rules from the U.S. Department of Labor will become effective on March 30. Wages for field workers will be based on wage data from the Farm Labor Survey from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Other H-2A workers including agricultural equipment operators will have wages based on the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics survey from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Multiple ag groups have cited the rule change as adding additional burdens to an industry already struggling with a variety of economic challenges.
“With economic blinders on, the Administration will now mandate that farmers pay higher wages to H-2A workers and domestic workers in corresponding employment,” Western Growers President & CEO Dave Puglia said in a news release. “Increasing wages by regulatory order will force farmers to cut back on plantings in the U.S. and increase their farm operations in Mexico and other countries where wages are a fraction of the H-2A wage.”
A similar sentiment was expressed by other ag groups including the National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE) and the International Fresh Produce Association (IFPA). NCAE described the new H-2A wage rules as “a disaster,” adding that the only thing the rule will accomplish is a heavier reliance on imported produce. IFPA has noted the rule seeks to address fair wage rates, while ignoring the “flawed formula” used as a means for calculation.
“The H-2A program is unaffordable, ineffective and out of date, and these program changes make it even more difficult for our members to find the workers they need,” said IFPA CEO Cathy Burns. “This is why Congress must act to pass agricultural immigration reform now. America’s agricultural producers simply cannot wait any longer.”