Clements: The government-mandated wage rate for farmers who use the H-2A program increased Thursday, adding more hurdles to an already challenging ag labor market. The Agriculture Workforce Coalition, which includes the American Farm Bureau Federation, sent a letter to the Senate urging reforms. Allison Crittenden, AFBF congressional relations director, says the Adverse Effect Wage Rate will immediately increase farmers’ labor costs at a time when revenue for agricultural goods is declining.
Crittenden: On a national average we’re seeing a six percent increase. The AEWR is calculated into different regions, so some regions will see a greater increase than that; other regions will see a slightly smaller increase. But, overall, it’s going up another six percent while prices that farmers are getting for their commodities continue to be pretty stagnant.
Clements: Crittenden says the coalition seeks legislation that will ensure a level playing field for America’s farmers and ranchers.
Crittenden: We asked the U.S. Senate to come up with a solution that replaces the AEWR and allows American farms to be competitive. We’re continuing to see an influx of goods imported from other countries where their labor is much cheaper, and that’s driving down the prices for American agriculture goods.
Clements: Without reforms, she says some farms may go out of business because of the U.S. farm labor crisis.
Crittenden: A lot of farmers are forced to use the H-2A program, which subjects farmers to also paying for housing, transportation and the inflated Adverse Effect Wage Rate. So, it’s a matter of making sure farmers have access to the workforce that they need at a cost that won’t put them out of business.
Clements: Micheal Clements, Washington.