Sep 1, 2021USDA’s Annual Farm Labor Survey draws ag employers’ inquiry
The National Council of Agricultural Employers filed an inquiry Aug. 31 with the USDA. The council has asked for response to questions and concerns regarding the USDA’s Annual Farm Labor Survey.
The Farm Labor Survey (FLS) is used by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to establish the mandatory minimum wages agricultural employers must pay to workers employed under the H-2A Temporary Agricultural Worker Visa program as well as any domestic workers employed in corresponding employment. These mandatory minimum wages, referred to as the Adverse Effect Wage Rates (AEWRs) in the DOL regulations, are intended to prevent an adverse effect on domestic workers due to the employment of temporary foreign H-2A workers.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. The average AEWR required to be paid in the U.S. in 2021 under the H-2A program has been $14.62.
“Our members have become increasingly alarmed by the ever deepening disconnect from the market for agricultural labor and the results of the FLS used by the Department of Labor (DOL) to establish the AEWRs,” National Council of Agricultural Employers (NCAE) President and CEO Michael Marsh said in the letter to Vilsack. “Alarm over this disconnect has also been expressed by cooperative extension specialists, agricultural lenders, agricultural economists, and others with expertise in analysis of labor markets.”
The council’s letter notes that the impact of this disconnect between the FLS results and U. S. labor markets is hindering U. S. agricultural production and creating new opportunities for foreign competitors to expand their displacement of U. S. produced agricultural products in the market. Today over one-half of the fresh fruit and more than one-third of the fresh vegetables consumed in America are produced in another country. This circumstance is making U. S. agriculture less sustainable in global markets and forcing U.S. families to be ever more reliant upon foreign producers for their food. The Council’s inquiry also points out that the forfeit of America’s food production capability to foreign competitors jeopardizes U. S. national security.
Marsh stated that, “NCAE has repeatedly petitioned the DOL to make the determination required by statute as to whether an adverse effect is visited upon domestic workers due to the employment of Temporary H-2A Agricultural Workers necessitating the imposition of AEWRs. The DOL has failed to entertain the petitioned for determination to the peril of U. S. agriculture. Our inquiry seeks to find the reasons for this staggering disconnect so we can find a solution that allows American farmers and ranchers to again feed our nation.”
NCAE is the national trade association focusing on agricultural labor issues from the employer’s viewpoint.