Clements: In fiscal year 2019, the H-2A farm labor program again set a record for certified positions, which is the number of applications processed and approved. American Farm Bureau Federation Economist Veronica Nigh considers the more than 258,000 certified positions in 2019 a milestone for the program.
Nigh: Passing the quarter of a million positions is a big deal. This is the seventh consecutive year with increases in the H-2A program. Just a few years ago the H-2A program was a very minor part of U.S. on-farm employment.
Clements: While the national Adverse Effect Wage Rate will increase in 2020 to $13.99, up six percent from 2019, Nigh says increases will vary by region.
Nigh: The region with the smallest growth rate of 1% is the Mountain 1 region, which consists of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Whereas you compare that to the Corn Belt 1 region, which includes Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, and they’re looking at a 10% increase in wages compared to 2019.
Clements: Nigh says commodity prices are not keeping up with the growth in the Adverse Effect Wage Rate, causing some concern for specialty crop growers.
Nigh: The receipts data that we see for fruits, nuts and vegetables haven’t kept pace with the growth in the AEWR. So, over the last five years, the total cash receipts for those specialty crop growers have increased by two percent between 2015 and 2019. Meanwhile, the national Adverse Effect Wage Rate increased by 17%.
Clements: Find a complete analysis on the Market Intel section of fb.org. Micheal Clements, Washington.