Ag groups say H-2A wage increases are unsustainable

Several agricultural groups are calling on Congress to freeze wage increases planned for the H-2A seasonal farm worker program in 2023.

Michigan Farm Bureau’s John Krantells Brownfield the Adverse Effect Wage Rate for guest workers will increase nearly seven percent nationally and almost 13 percent in Michigan to $17.34 per hour.

“With huge wage increases like this, it’s just really hard for us to be competitive and really hard for us to keep growing the things we do,” he says.  “If this trend continues, we will definitely see people exit the industry.”

It’s the ninth year Michigan farmers have seen wage increases with the Great Lakes Ag Labor Services , a Michigan Farm Bureau affiliate, reporting a 50 percent increase in the number of new clients utilizing the H-2A program in 2022.

“Our farmers are really upset and frustrated about this, and looking for solutions,” he says.

The Affordable and Secure Food Act introduced this week would lock in 2022 rates for one year and cap increases at three percent per year.

If Congress does not act, sixteen states will have wages of more than $17.00 per hour including Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Hawaii, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Oregon, Washington, and California.

The Lake region, which includes Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, has the largest increase in dollar terms, up $1.97 per hour.

Nationally the H-2A program saw another year of record use with more than 370,000 positions certified in the fiscal year 2022, up 17 percent from 2021.

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