WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) and 27 of his Republican colleagues introduced a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act to overturn a misguided rule from the Department of Labor (DOL) that will drastically increase costs for American farmers.
“Farmers in North Carolina and across the country are facing unprecedented challenges,” said Senator Tillis. “The H-2A visa program has long been a last-resort option for farmers as a legal and reliable source of labor to plant, grow, and harvest their crops; however, the wage rate farmers are required to pay by the Department of Labor has long outpaced the rate of inflation and become unsustainable. This year’s increase has only exacerbated the current national labor crisis. While our farmers need broader programmatic reforms, this misguided rule will only make matters worse. Our farmers need relief to their rapidly rising input costs while maintaining worker pay and protections and allow U.S. farmers to continue doing what they do best—producing the safest, most abundant and affordable supply of food and fiber in the world. I am proud to introduce this resolution with my colleagues so we can move towards more helpful solutions for our agriculture industry.”
The resolution is supported by the entire steering committee of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition(AWC), which led a letter of support with over 550 Agriculture organizations from across the country—including the South Carolina Farm Bureau.
Since it took effect in 1987, the DOL’s H-2A visa program has played an essential role in filling gaps in the US farm labor market through the utilization of seasonal labor. H-2A labor is essential for a number of American farms to remain sufficiently staffed for the planting, cultivating, and harvesting of crops.
Almost half of H-2A labor is employed by individuals, so affordable wages and a maximization of the H-2A hiring process are both critical—especially for smaller farms.
According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, labor already accounts for nearly 40% of total production costs on some farms. This new rule from the Department of Labor will only raise that cost nationwide and will create a new layer of complexity for employers who rely on the H-2A program.
Summary of the Rule:
- The Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) is the minimum amount of payment that DOL requires employers to offer to H-2A visa agricultural workers.
- Under the new DOL rule, several job types on farms will have separate and higher AEWRs.
- This change not only inflates H-2A wage rates, but it also creates a massive administrative burden for all H-2A farmers who now have to separately track every activity of every employee on their farms to avoid violating the new rule.
- DOL ignored agricultural industry realities when it crafted this new AEWR methodology, and it blatantly dismissed dozens of concerns submitted by producers during the rulemaking process.