Dec 4, 2018
Congressional leadership aid sought on AEWR relief

The National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE) today called on Congressional leadership to support legislative language addressing a serious concern among US farmers and ranchers over agency action that will result in significant and unsupportable cost increases for American farms in 2019.

NCAE is calling for leadership to support an effort by US Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) in advancing a proposal to implement a short-term hold for wage rates for the 2019 growing season providing a window for the US Departments of Labor and Agriculture to develop an improved system for determining an accurate and market-based assessment of adverse effect wages and  the most effective mechanism to address it.

The NCAE action comes in response to a USDA wage survey used to establish an “adverse effective wage rate” in the H-2A temporary agricultural guest worker program that inexplicably indicated FY 2018 agricultural wages had dramatically spiked an average of more than 6 percent nationwide with some states seeing an increase of almost 23 percent.

“A temporary freeze on agricultural wages is an imperative if US farms and ranches are to survive,” noted Michael Marsh, President and CEO of NCAE.  “Unfair retaliatory tariffs have clobbered American agriculture and placed many family farms and ranches in jeopardy.  Mandating ag wage increases of as much as 23 percent on farmers in a year when average US wage growth has been under 3 percent is unsustainable.”

The letter to Congress from NCAE:

December 3, 2018

Rep. Paul Ryan                                                           Sen. Mitch McConnell

Speaker of the House of Representatives                    Majority Leader, U.S. Senate

H-232 The Capitol                                                      317 Russell Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20515                                              Washington, DC 20510

Rep. Nancy Pelosi                                                       Sen. Charles Schumer

Minority Leader, House of Representatives                Minority Leader, U.S. Senate

H-204 The Capitol                                                      322 Hart Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20515                                              Washington, DC 20510



Re:      Agricultural Wage Rates for 2019

Dear Speaker Ryan, Leader McConnell, Leader Pelosi, and Leader Schumer,

The National Council of Agricultural Employers, together with our undersigned partners in the agricultural employer community, write to support legislative language to address a serious concern among our farmers and ranchers over agency action that will result in significant and unsupportable cost increases for American farms in 2019.  A wide spectrum of agricultural groups, including several advocates for farmworkers, join us in this concern and in urging Congress to take action to address this.

Congress created the H-2A non-immigrant agricultural visa program in 1986, under which U.S. farms can legally employ foreign workers on a temporary basis where they can prove to the Department of Labor that they are unable to find and recruit sufficient numbers of U.S. workers and that the employment of foreign workers will not “adversely affect” U.S. workers similarly employed.  DOL does not currently measure actual “adverse effect” on U.S. workers but, rather, uses average wage data from USDA to set a minimum wage for foreign agricultural workers.  DOL has no other mechanism right now to alter the methodology.  The calculations result in a wage level significantly higher for the 2019 growing season, a far greater increase than the national average and at a time when prices are level or decreasing for most crops.

Without immediate action, growers will face increases of up to 23% in labor costs within the next few weeks as a result of this methodology.  Senator Tillis is advancing a proposal to implement a short-term hold for wage rates for the 2019 growing season to provide a window for DOL and the Department of Agriculture to develop an improved system that offers an accurate and market-based assessment of adverse effect and develop the most effective mechanism to address it.  Our organizations write to support the proposal from Senator Tillis to address this problem, both in the near-term and on a permanent basis.

DOL will publish its 2019 AEWR in the Federal Register within the next 3 weeks.  We strongly urge you to support Senator Tillis’ proposal as part of any appropriations bill that Congress takes up before then.

Thank you for your time and consideration of these comments.


Michael Marsh

President and CEO

National Council of Agricultural Employers

Additional Signatories-Organizations Representing Employers:

Agriculture Affiliates

AgCarolina Farm Credit

Alabama Nursery & Landscape Association


Appalachian Fruit Growers

California Apple Commission

California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers

California Avocado Commission

California Blueberry Commission

Grower-Shipper Association of Central California

Olive Growers Council of California

Colorado Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association

Colorado Nursery & Greenhouse Association

Farm Credit East

Florida Citrus Mutual

Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association

Georgia Green Industry Association

Great Lakes Ag Labor Services, LLC

H-2A Complete, Inc.

Idaho Apple Commission

Idaho Cherry Commission

Idaho Hop Growers Association

Idaho-Oregon Fruit and Vegetable Association

Illinois Green Industry Association

Labor Services International

Low Country Labor Company

Marsing Ag Labor Sponsoring Committee

Maryland Nursery, Landscape, and Greenhouse Association


Michigan Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Association

Michigan Apple Association

Michigan Farm Bureau

Michigan Nursery & Landscape Association

Mid Columbia Ag Services LLC

Minnesota Nursery & Landscape Association

Monterey County Farm Bureau (CA)

Mountain Plains Ag Service

National Association of State Departments of Agriculture

National Christmas Tree Association

National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

National Peach Council

National Potato Council

National Watermelon Association

New England Apple Council

New Jersey Nursery & Landscape Association

New York Apple Association

New York Farm Bureau

New York State Berry Growers

New York State Horticulture Society

New York State Vegetable Growers Association

North Carolina Christmas Tree Association

North Carolina Farm Bureau

North Carolina Nursery & Landscape Association

Northeast Dairy Producers Association

Northwest Horticultural Council

Oregon Association of Nurseries

Pennsylvania Apple Program

Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association

Snake River Farmers’ Association

State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania

Tennessee Nursery & Landscape Association

U.S. Apple Association

U.S. Sweet Potato Council

United Fresh Produce Association

Ventura County Agricultural Association (CA)

Virginia Apple Growers Association

Virginia Nursery & Landscape Association

Washington Growers League

Washington State Tree Fruit Association

West Virginia Nursery & Landscape Association

Western Growers

Additional Signatories-Farms and Businesses

A & B Costanza Farms LLC

A Duda & Sons

Allred Orchards (UT)

Battlefield Farms Inc. (VA)

Book-Ends Associates

BrightView Tree Company (CA)

Cherry Hill Farms (ID)

Cline Church Nursery (NC)

Fowers Fruit Ranch (UT)

Grant 4D Farms

Jensen & Son Inc.

Joe Rasch Orchards, Inc.

Laurel Springs Nursery, LLC (NC)

Leitz Farms, LLC (MI)

McMullin Orchards (UT)

MBG Marketing (MI)

Mountain Valley Fruit (UT)

Olson’s Greenhouse Gardens, Inc. (CO)

Olson’s Greenhouses of Colorado, LLC (CO)

Petrocco Farms (CO)

R&R Harvesting, Inc.

Riley Farms (UT)

Russell Costanza Farms (MI)

Scully Packing Company (CA)

South Shore Farms (UT)

Talbott’s Mountain Gold LLP (CO)

Tanimura & Antle Fresh Foods, Inc.

Three Mile Canyon Farms, LLC

Wada Farms, Inc.

Washington Bulb Company

West Coast Tomato Growers

cc:        Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, Chairman, House Appropriations Committee

Rep. Nita Lowey, Ranking Member, House Appropriations Committee

Sen. Richard Shelby, Chairman, Senate Appropriations Committee

Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vice Chairman, Senate Appropriations

75 Applewood Drive, Suite A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345


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