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Ag industry feeling effect of H-2A changes

Last year the U.S. Department of Labor instituted several rule changes to the H-2A visa program, and those changes are impacting farmers.

Illinois Farm Bureau president, Brian Duncan says the eight new rules, specifically surrounding wage rate calculation, are making it more difficult for farmers to utilize the program…

“American Farm Bureau Federation prioritized two points: freeze the wage rate that has gone up exponentially, and rollback the adverse effect wage rate calculation that went into effect in March of 2023.”  He says, “That had a very dramatic cost increase impact to our members.”

Gabriel Oosthuysen is program director for Golden Opportunities International, a Tennessee-based work placement service specializing in H-2A.  He also tells Brownfield the Adverse Effect Wage Rate change is dramatic…

“If they need anybody that has more skills, for example somebody that can drive a truck, some of those wages are $26 an hour.”  He says, “They have to pay those higher rates for the entire season, even if the employee is operating a tractor, which normally would have been reimbursed at $18.18 an hour.” 

Duncan says farm bureau officials want Congress to find a solution…

“Let’s go for these two items and hang them on any place we can hang them.”  He says, “A continuing resolution, any piece of legislation that’s moving.”

Both officials say the H-2A program is vital for an ag industry that continues to face labor shortages.

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