Washington, DC – Earlier this week, Congressman Frank Lucas (OK-03), former Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, joined Representative Ralph Norman (SC-05) and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA-15) introducing a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to block the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) H-2A Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWR) rule that will drastically increase costs for American farmers.
Under the new rule, DOL requires a higher minimum payment for H-2A visa agricultural workers. This change inflates H-2A wage rates while also creating 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.
“Historic inflation, disrupted supply chains, strings of natural disasters, and the war in Ukraine have significantly increased the cost of farm inputs and food across the country. America’s agriculture sector is vital to the economy, with no industry impacted more by our immigration system than agriculture. The Labor Department’s rule would make it harder for farmers to access a legal and reliable workforce and drive-up food costs- both on the farm and at the grocery store,” said Congressman Lucas. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in blocking the Biden Administration’s continued regulatory efforts that would threaten American family farm operations and limit their ability to meet the global food demand.”
Since it took effect in 1987, the DOL’s H-2A visa program has played an essential role in filling gaps in the U.S. 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.
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 farmers utilizing H-2A labor and will require them to separately track every activity of each employee on their farms to avoid violating the new rule. This new AEWR methodology ignores:
– agricultural industry realities such as labor shortages;
– the impact of program costs on competitiveness at home and abroad; and
– the impact that higher costs have on job availability and downstream industries.
“The Department of Labor’s new rule will only hurt our farmers and increase our reliance on imported food to keep our grocery shelves stocked, raising the cost of food and supplies. This is the last thing South Carolina families want. Congress must join my colleagues and me in overturning Biden’s harmful regulation that poses tremendous harm to farmers across the country,” said Rep. Norman.
“Food security is national security, and no industry is more affected by our broken immigration system than agriculture.” said Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. “Ensuring a reliable, year-round workforce is critical to driving the economy, feeding the world, and promoting the safety and security of our nation. The Biden Administration’s latest H-2A wage rule would further undermine farmers access to a legal workforce, drive up already inflated production costs, and ultimately impact American consumers at the grocery store.”
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 Oklahoma Farm Bureau.
“The AWC strongly opposes the harmful H-2A regulation. The new calculation dramatically increases costs for producers utilizing the program and will place an undue burden on family farms which are already facing a multitude of challenges, including the impact of high input costs, foreign competition, market volatility, and adverse weather. It will make it difficult for farmers to remain competitive and will serve only to further increase costs for domestically produced agricultural products,”said the member organizations of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition.
U.S. Senators Tim Scott (R-SC), Ted Budd (R-NC), and Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) introduced the companion resolution of disapproval in the U.S. Senate.