Congressman to Vilsack: current increases in labor costs are unstainable

U.S. Congressman John Moolenaar of Michigan continues to express concern that rising labor costs are negatively impacting farms.

During a hearing with Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack this morning, Moolenaar said the constant increases in the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) are unsustainable. “As the Secretary of Agriculture, how are you standing up for American farmers and telling your counterpart at the Department of Labor that her regulations are hurting American farmers,” he asks.

Vilsack says the rule impacts two parties—the farmers and the workers. “I don’t have any doubt that farmers are concerned about this,” he says. “But they also need to make sure they understand that fixing the system is the way to do this. It isn’t just a freeze for a year or two. That’s just going to delay them. You have to fix the system.”

Moolenaar says farmers in his district can’t continue to farm with rising wage rates. “Those jobs are either going to go to other countries or automation,” he says.  “And our farms are going to be out of business.” Moolenaar pushed the Secretary, asking if the message he should take back to his constituents is that the status quo is “okay” and to just “get used to it”.

Vilsack said no. “The message is, the data is what it is,” he says. “We’re working to expand opportunities and income for you so that at the end of the day, both you and the farm workers can prosper.”

Vilsack testified Thursday before the House Ag Appropriations subcommittee on the USDA’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2025. 

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