House lawmakers express concerns over proposed H2A labor rates

House members calling on Congress to freeze H-2A guestworker wages in upcoming funding legislation.

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

January 16, 2024

1 Min Read
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A group of 74, mostly Republican, House members are calling on Congress to freeze H-2A guestworker wages in upcoming funding legislation. In a Jan. 11 letter to House and Senate Appropriations Committee leaders, they contend that the H-2A labor rates paid by agricultural employers have become unaffordable. They note that recent adjustments to the Adverse Effect Wage Rate have more than doubled over the past two decades.

American Farm Bureau Federation data shows the national average AWER is likely to be around $17.55 per hour. That is up 5% compared to 2023. At the same time Canadian producers pay closer to $11 per hour for field workers. Mexico’s rate is approximately $1.50 per hour.

“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,” the lawmakers said. “USDA data shows that hired farm labor costs account for nearly 15% of total cash expenses.”

They add that 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 nothing is done, lawmakers argue that many of their constituents will be forced shutter their businesses.

“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,” they said.

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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