The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has finally revealed what the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) will be for 2021. Employers of H-2A workers will now know what wage expectations are for the year. The new AEWR was delayed due to complications related to the Farm Labor Survey (FLS) from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Overall, the FLS shows that H-2A wages will increase nationally by 4.5 percent for 2021. However, the increased average of $0.63 per hour is significantly different between regions.
Oregon and Washington will have the highest H-2A wages in the country at $16.34 an hour. The new total is an increase of more than three percent from the previous level. California will experience the largest increase in H-2A wage rates at nearly nine percent. The new AEWR for California is $16.05 per hour, making it the third-highest rate in the country. Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama will have the lowest wages of any other states with a minimal increase to $11.81 per hour. The new AEWR went into effect on February 23 after being published in the Federal Register.
An analysis from the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) highlights the pace at which the AEWR is increasing. AFBF points out that wage rates have increased an average of 20 percent over the previous five years. Regional differences have also created considerable variations in wages. The Western states have experienced the most substantial increase in wage rates since 2016. Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada wage rates have increased by 35 percent. California rates have increased 28 percent, while Washington and Oregon have increased by 22 percent.
Changes had been made to the methodology of configuring wage rates for H-2A workers. Initially, the plan was to discontinue the FLS and no longer use it as the basis for the AEWR. After multiple court cases, the FLS was reinstated and was to be used as the basis for establishing wage rates.