Produce Industry - Action Alert!
Tell Congress to stop the burdensome increase in employer costs proposed under AEWR. This rule would directly harm American farmers and consumers.
Currently, all H-2A workers are paid in accordance with the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR), and over the last decade, the average AEWR has grown at twice the rate of inflation. A final rule from the Department of Labor (DOL) published on February 28 would change the AEWR methodology and require farms using H-2A workers to administer separate, higher wage rates for certain jobs.
More Regulations Will Not Solve Our Labor Crisis
Washington’s Answer to our Labor Crisis? More regulations - IFPA members worked together to develop comments on two separate Notice of Proposed Rulemakings (NPRM) from the Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) pertaining to the H-2A Visa program which provides a vital source of labor for the fresh produce and floral industries.
These misguided attempts by two agencies demanded a strong response, and IFPA formed a working group made up of volunteer leaders to address every aspect of each NPRM. Both sets of comments are clear, IFPA is committed to building a workable H-2A program that is fair to employers and employees alike, but we will not allow bad policy based on a flawed theory jeopardize the future of our industry.
One other thing is clear, more regulations will not solve our labor crisis, only Congressional action can provide the certainty we need as an industry to not only survive, but flourish.
The DOL Comments were due November 14 and the DHS Comments were due November 20.
USDA H-2A Grant Information and Application Links
On September 22, 2023, USDA announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity for the newly created USDA Farm Labor Stabilization and Protection Pilot Program (FLSP) which will award up to $65 million in direct grants to support for agricultural employers who participate in the H-2A program in exchange for agreements to “improve working conditions for agricultural workers.” The program specifically seeks to expand H-2A opportunities for program participants in Northern Triangle countries and create a pipeline for future workers to enter the program from those countries.
The one time grant program will provide direct grants to producers for short term and long-term changes to their business practices. According to USDA; “The maximum award amount is $2,000,000 and the minimum amount is $25,000 per grant agreement (including any sub-awardees). Award amounts will be determined based on the projected number of full-time equivalent (FTE) agricultural employees, desired award level, as well as the competitive nature of the application. Consistent with the H-2A requirements, applicants must demonstrate insufficient availability of a U.S.-based workforce."
IFPA has engaged with USDA from their initial announcement of the pilot program in 2022 to encourage them to ensure that the program best meets the needs of H-2A users who choose to participate in the voluntary pilot program.
- Farm Labor Stabilization and Protection Pilot Program
- Farm Labor Stabilization and Protection Pilot Program Notice of Funding Opportunity (Application Information)
Applications for the FLSP program must be received on or before 11:59 pm Eastern Time on November 28, 2023.
- Farm Labor Stabilization and Protection Pilot Program Fact Sheet
- USDA Press Release - September 22, 2023
Farm Labor Stats
Farm Worker Legislation Overview
For years, the fresh produce industry and our agriculture sector partners have made an overwhelming case for legislation to reform our broken immigration system and help build a legal and reliable workforce, especially now that the USDA expects the U.S. to import more food than it exports starting this year.
Last year, Congress made considerable progress toward addressing farm worker issues by passing the Farm Workforce Modernization Act (H.R. 1603) and introducing the Affordable and Secure Food Act (S.5282). Even though these bills fell short, the 118th Congress will see Congress pursuing similar legislative solutions.
Labor challenges exist elsewhere in the supply chain, too, with the need for additional truck drivers, railroad workers, and more to avert another crisis, like the 2022 union strikes.
Workforce Reform in 2023
Key conversations have restarted in the 118th Congress to ensure the country has labor on the farm and in the supply chain while broad immigration reform efforts remain a priority for both parties. IFPA continues to act to keep this in focus through the following actions:
Legislative action is at the heart of our efforts to change policies to improve the conditions impacting our supply chain. See how IFPA is taking on our workforce challenges:
- Workforce: Issues Brief
- Congressional Review Act Resolutions for AEWR Disaggregation Rule (H.J Res. 59 and S.J. Res. 25): IFPA supports House and Senate resolutions disapproving of the Department of Labor’s H-2A AEWR regulation released on February 28, 2023.
- Farm Operations Support Act (S.874): IFPA supports bipartisan Senate Legislation that would revert the AEWR to the December 2022 rate for the remainder of 2023.
Key to our efforts is making sure members of Congress and the Administration hear directly from IFPA and our members about the importance of immigration reform. View the letters IFPA has organized or joined:
- Dec. 6, 2022: Letter to Senate Leadership Urging Passage of Agriculture Labor Reform Bill
- Aug. 2, 2022: Letter to Senate Leadership on Agricultural Support for Immigration Reform
- May 12, 2022: Letter to Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Mark-Up of 11 Key Immigration Bills
- June 8, 2021: Letter to Senate Leadership on Agricultural Support for Immigration Reform
There are many federal agencies involved in the employment of foreign workers in the fresh produce industry. This is particularly true for users of the H-2A and H-2B visa programs where multiple agencies work together to manage the programs. Learn more about relevant agencies that play a role in the development, implementation and oversight of regulations impacting our members in this space:
- Citizenship and Immigration Services
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Homeland Security
- Department of Labor
- Department of State