February 28, 2023

(Washington, D.C.)

The National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE) raised grave concern over the issuance of a new wage rule for use in the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Program published this morning. The regulation, which began its rulemaking journey in July 2019 during the Trump Administration, found its way to publication in the Federal Register today.

The new regulation would not only continue the Department of Labor’s (DOL) historic misuse of the USDA’s Farm Labor Survey to manufacture wage rates in the H-2A Program disconnected from the market for agricultural labor in the United States but also injects additional new wage rates into the program similarly disconnected from agriculture to compensate some workers for routine on-farm chores. The net effect of this new wage rule will push more of America’s food production offshore to foreign competition making American families even more dependent on foreign countries for food. Today more than 60% of the fresh fruit and more than 35% of the fresh vegetables consumed in the United States are produced offshore.

“The Department of Labor’s new wage rule is a disaster for American consumers and the farm and ranch families who toil every day to deliver bounty harvested from their legacy operations,” said Michael Marsh, President and CEO of the National Council of Agricultural Employers. “The Department is required by statute to establish wage rates under the H-2A Program that will not adversely effect the wages and working conditions of domestic workers similarly employed. This rule seeks to do that by throwing U.S. farm and ranch families under the bus!”

The National Council of Agricultural Employers has repeatedly petitioned Secretaries of the Department of Labor to hold hearings on the economics of this regulatory scheme but those petitions to the American government have been ignored. The Department of Agriculture has indicated that, “The Farm Labor Survey has been conducted for more than 80 years, using basically the same survey methods. It was not designed to be used as a source of wage rates for a guest worker program. Rather, it provides an accurate count of the numbers of persons employed in agriculture and the average wage rate across all skill levels and occupations.”

“With this new rule, American consumers can be confident in one thing, they will be more likely to find tomatoes in their grocery store grown in Mexico, than those grown in Florida, California, or Michigan. Similarly, consumers can count on finding blueberries, apples, and strawberries produced in Canada, but few selections grown in Georgia, New York, or Washington,” said Marsh. “A country forced to rely on others for its sustenance has forfeited a key element of its national security. America expects and deserves better than this!”

NCAE is working with legal counsel, economists, and Members of Congress to determine options and next steps forward.

NCAE is the national trade association focusing on agricultural labor issues from the employer’s viewpoint.

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