The U.S. Department of Labor announced it will publish a final rule to amend the Adverse Effect Wage Rates for the H-2A program.
The final rule, published on Feb. 28 in the Federal Register, says the department will calculate the H-2A wage rates for field workers based on USDA’s Farm Labor Survey of farmworker wages. However, H-2A wage rates for some occupations, such as truck drivers and agricultural equipment operators , will be calculated based on the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Department says the BLS survey better reflects the prevailing wages paid for those occupations
For job opportunities that cover more than one classification, DOL will base adverse effect rates on the highest wage for the applicable occupations. Farmers are required to pay H-2A workers at least as much as the “adverse effect wage rate” set by the department each year.
“American farmers are already stretched to the limit by rising costs and shrinking margins. With economic blinders on, the Administration will now mandate that farmers pay higher wages to H-2A workers and domestic workers in corresponding employment,” said Western Growers President & CEO Dave Puglia. “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. No one in the Administration would want those things to happen, but these are the entirely foreseeable consequences of economically myopic policy decisions like this.”
The Labor Department says in the 134-page rule that the new “methodology strikes a reasonable balance between the statute’s competing goals of providing employers with an adequate supply of legal agricultural labor and protecting the wages and working conditions of workers in the United States similarly employed.” The DOL estimates the changes to the wage rates would cost employers about $38 million a year.
The new rule is effective March 30, 2023.