Impact of COVID-19 on Agriculture

H-2A Final Rule Gives Farmers Predictability, Stability

News / Newsline November 3, 2020

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The final H-2A rule announced this week by the Department of Labor gives farmers predictability in farm employee wages. Micheal Clements shares how farmworker wages will be handled moving forward.

Clements: The Department of Labor this week announced a change in how farm labor rate increases are determined. Allison Crittenden, American Farm Bureau Federation Congressional Relations Director, says the final rule no longer uses USDA’s Farm Labor Survey for workers who fall under core farm occupations.

Crittenden: So, we’re no longer using the survey-based wage methodology that has all those drastic swings from year-to-year of a 23 percent increase in one year, or a ten percent increase in a different region. Instead, we are moving to a two-year freeze, and then using the Employment Cost Index which isn’t as volatile to dictate the increases starting in 2023.

Clements: Crittenden says farmers need the predictability provided by the final rule.

Crittenden: It provides stability and some level of predictability, especially for the next two years, knowing that wages won’t increase until 2023 for those that qualify for these core farm occupations. Predictability and stability are very needed right now during the pandemic and all of the market uncertainty that we are still facing.

Clements: Crittenden says the final rule puts in place a fair process that doesn’t undermine the efforts to pay farm workers fair wages.

Crittenden: But it allows farmers to plan for the year ahead without having a drastic increase thrust on them at the beginning of the year. The ECI is a more stable index, with increases ranging approximately 2.24 percent each year on average over the last decade. So, it’s something that allows farmers to predict and plan and figure out their labor needs while still paying a fair wage to their employees.

Clements: Micheal Clements, Washington.

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